City of Brussels is working on the programme of temporary occupation for vacant buildings in the city. Alderwoman Ans Persoons (Change.Brussels) believes that this can become the new norm – vacant buildings can temporarily be given a new meaning and improve the city life. One example is located in the Aarlenstraat 104, a space which will soon be transformed into a place for studios, workshops and conferences. The intention is to proactively contact owners who know that their building will remain vacant for a while and to convince them to make their property available.
The first pilot project will soon open its doors with “Arlon 104”
Located in the heart of the European district, the “Arlon 104” building belongs to the federal state and is managed by the Régie des Bâtiments. This property dates from the sixties and has long remained empty and unoccupied. The Régie des Bâtiments and the City of Brussels have come together to find a partner to give the building a new function in the context of temporary occupation, a policy on which the City wishes to focus in the future. In this case, the City of Brussels has contacted the owners who know that their building will remain unoccupied for a while to convince them to occupy it temporarily.
A win-win project
Arlon 104 is a pilot project. The Planning Department of the City of Brussels began research on this building as part of its participation in the European URBACT 2nd Chance – “Waking the sleeping giants” project, one of the components of which aimed to reflect on the reactivation of unoccupied buildings. The building located at 104 rue d´Arlon belongs to the Régie des Bâtiments (the federal government) and has no new plans for the moment. The building was completely emptied inside.
Temporary occupation must become the norm. First, we will look in empty buildings that are managed by public services. The City of Brussels is strict with private owners, but many of the buildings belonging to public authorities must play an exemplary role.Ans Persoons, Alderman of Town Planning at the City of Brussels.
The building does not yet have a new or final purpose. Laurent Vrijdaghs, General Administrator of the Régie des Bâtiments believes that this is a win-win situation – “this is the reason why we decided, in collaboration with the European District Fund (Fonds Quartier Européen, corporate fund of the King Baudouin Foundation) and the City of Brussels, to find a temporary occupation for the ground floor and the 2nd and 3rd floors in anticipation of a possible future sale of the building.”
The City of Brussels and the Régie des Bâtiments have reached an agreement regarding this initiative. Since the Régie des Bâtiments makes part of its building available free of charge for temporary occupancy, it will not have to pay the tax on unoccupied buildings. This is the first time that the City of Brussels has concluded such an agreement.
Philippe Close, Mayor of Brussels hopes that the success of “Arlon 104” will convince other owners to do the same. This collaboration shows once again that the tax on unoccupied buildings is a particularly effective incentive.
There is a municipal tax for abandoned, neglected, unoccupied or unfinished buildings and land. The regulations provide for an exemption from this tax, when, as in this case, a temporary reactivation of the building is planned. As the building was abandoned, some work had to be done in order to bring the building up to safety standards (water and electricity connection, fire safety, electricity and lighting, repair of water damage, etc.). This work began in January and should be completed by mid-November 2020. The costs of this work are covered by the Régie des Bâtiments.
To signify that things are happening inside again, the City of Brussels also wants to intervene outside. The intention is to make the outdoor space along rue Jacques de Lalaing a kind of “pocket park” / urban garden. The project must highlight the building. Ans Persoons notes that the City of Brussels worked with a graphics office to intervene on the large wall of the building. The costs of these interventions are borne by town planning charges paid by promoters developing projects in the district.
StamEuropa: a Brussels building dedicated to the European district
The Régie des Bâtiments has entered into a temporary occupancy agreement with the European Quarter Fund. From November 2020 (depending on the evolution of the Covid-19 crisis), they will be able to manage part of the building (ground floor, 2nd and 3rd) and look for partners / organizations to make it “live” with them. The objective is to make this building a new place for innovative dialogue between citizens and the European ecosystem. Innovative scenography, different formats and rules of conversation as well as a large catering offer should help to give a new destination to the European quarter, which has been rather monofunctional until now. StamEuropa, the name of the project, must become the essential place for studios, workshops and conferences of all kinds of organizations and institutions so that the democratic character of the European quarter acquires a new, innovative and participatory dimension. The project focuses on the inhabitants of the district, the inhabitants of Brussels and even the Europeans who visit Brussels.
Source: City of Brussels