UG sells Hortus and Biological Centre to the city

The UG is selling the Hortus and the Biological Centre in Haren to the municipality of Groningen for 3.6 million euros.

If the municipal council votes in favour of the purchase, as is expected, the lands and buildings will change ownership on January 1, 2023.

The Hortus hasn’t been used by the UG since the eighties, and the former Biological Centre hasn’t been used since 2010. The centre almost sold to a company that wanted to turn it into student housing, but the sale fell through due to the clean-up costs. The building has asbestos and poor insulation.

Cultural heritage

The city came up as a potential buyer in April of last year. UG spokesperson Gernant Deekens says it was important for the university that the Laarman gardens, part of the Hortus, and the Zoological Lab which is located on the grounds of the Biological Centre, remain cultural heritage.

Its public function should also be maintained. The city recognises that this is an important part of the property. ‘That’s very important to us’, says Deekens.

Breeding ground

In the meantime, anti-squatting organisation CareX has turned the property into a breeding ground for artists and fledgling entrepreneurs: the Biotoop. The former Biological Centre now houses 180 residents, 150 artists, and one hundred businesses.

CareX director Lenze Hofstee, who lives in the former Zoological Lab on the grounds, is happy with the sale. ‘As I understand it, the city understands the significance of the Biotoop as a cultural breeding ground and wants to continue this.’

The Biotoop is doing well, says Hofstee. ‘Everyone here is happy. If we can continue living like this, it will only benefit Groningen.’

Not split up

The Friends of the Hortus foundation is also satisfied, says its chair Tjerk Zwanenburg. ‘The fact that the property isn’t being split up, that we’re getting a single owner, is really great.’ In a letter the city sent to the property’s residents and businesses, it says it wants to keep the existing elements.

The current residents and businesses will be able to remain until the end of 2023. It’s unknown what will happen with the property after that. The city plans to explore that this year and will meet with conservation organisation Het Groninger Landschap to confer.


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