The Witte de Withstraat is one of the most popular streets in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. International students, visitors to the city as well as locals, are familiar with the street that holds the reputation of the ‘coolest street’ in the city. However, its character and state used to be rather different in the past. Prostition, drug dealership and use along with heavy drinking, gave the WdW a bad name. It was only at the end of the 1990s that the first conscious actions towards its improvement and regeneration were organized. In accordance with Richard Florida (2002), the presence of arts in a street can aid to its regeneration and prosperity. A neighbourhood with cultural institutions is appealing and attracts people to inhabit it. Therefore, the city of Rotterdam followed this example and proceeded, first in the removal of shady bars and brothels from the WdW and next, to the establishment of arts institutions there, in an attempt to make the street safer and more approachable. The emergence of the street into a cultural hub attracted creatives to group there, turning it into a cluster. Smog (2016) notices that creative clusters can have great impact in the growth of an area and this is precisely what has happened in the case of the WdW. Its popularity excited the interest of the business world, soon deciding to locate their ventures there. Nevertheless, in line with the cluster life cycle theory, the successful phase of the street’s development was to be followed by deterioration. In detail, the street managed to replace its infamous reputation by becoming Rotterdam’s cultural hotspot, but tensions between the creatives and the business world came to the surface. This paper sets out to examine the changes in the street, starting from the 1990s and moving towards the 2010s, via the contribution of the arts and culture. To this end, the personal accounts of the people who work there will be consulted. The participants in the study come from different backgrounds; three employees of the biggest cultural institutions in the street (Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, V2_Lab for the Unstable Media, Theatre Rotterdam), a hotel manager, three business owners, a post-doc researcher, a member of the Rotterdam Centre area committee, an employee at the cultural department of the municipality were interviewed for this research.

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De la Hera, T.
Media & Creative Industries
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Karatza, Dimitra. (2019, October). FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT: The metamorphosis of the Witte de Withstraat street in Rotterdam in the years 1999-2019.. Media & Creative Industries. Retrieved from