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Policies, instruments, structures for the reactivation of vacant properties

09 February 2018

One of the main aim of the 2nd Chance project is to find alternative Policies and Tools for the Reactivation of Vacant building and properties. The 2nd Chance Partners have been working on this topic for three days, during the meeting in Brussels, at the end of November 2017. The visit on the site was the occasion to discover the Arlon 104, the sleeping giants ready to start a new life, through the Lobby Project. Other interesting good practices of reactivation of vacant spaces were presented to the partners. 

Since the 90’s, the city of Brussels has been considering unoccupied and abandoned buildings a threat to public safety and to the commercial and economical dynamics of the city centre. But the last few years, with the demographic boom, unoccupied floors above shops have also been considered as a solution for the massive lack of housing in the region of Brussels. Thus, Brussels has developed a global strategy of actions with a gradual system of tools to first incite and then force the rehabilitation and reuse of vacant buildings. This was the main topic that brought 11 cities from all over Europe together for a two-days meeting in Brussels in December 2017: to listen, exchange and learn about policies, programmes, tools and procedures to reactivate vacant buildings. The Meeting Report includes all the presentations and useful informations on the activities and documents shared during the two days. 

The meeting itself took place in a former vacant building, the Ateliers des Tanneurs. The listed, vacant building was turned into a business centre for local economy, providing 25.000 m² for housing, social and economic activities. Brussels presented other inspiring examples to reactivate vacant and underused spaces like the Recyclart Art Centre that has developed a socio-cultural project in unused spaces of a train station underneath the railway, or the initiatives of TOESTAND to temporarily reuse open and building space for neighbourhood activities in collaboration with local partners.

But Brussels has not only to offer interesting practice cases. They also have developed a fascinating cascade of financial and legal tools to incite the rehabilitation and reuse of vacant buildings. They also have a unique public inventory of business premises for sale or rent to promote their reuse, free of charge to use, that you can find on our Good Practices Copilation.

Also the 2nd Chance partners shared their highlights developing their reactivation strategies and engaging stakeholders in that process. Last but not least Brussels target building, the Arlon 104, a former office building in the European quarter, was visited. There Brussels presented its short, mid and long term development goals and activities for the reactivation of the building.

The building is located in the European quarter in Brussels, a dense, upscale administrative zone, yet at the same time suffering from a high vacancy ratio (11%). Nevertheless, an ambitious plan for the “Wetstraat”, the main axe in the neighbourhood, will lead to the construction of even more office buildings. Thus, a strategy is needed to avoid the demolition of the existing building stock. The building itself, Arlon 104, built in the sixties, is an office building of 11 000 m² which hasn’t been in use since 2004. In 2010 it was stripped completely, leaving only its bare structure, roof and façade.


<<In the further development and application of reactivation strategies, we would need to find a way to maintain motivation levels high throughout the whole process. Reality shows that this is not easy, due to changes in priorities and busy schedules... Part of the solution could lie in working in different levels: A core group signs a charter, defining common goals and levels of commitment, and is supported by a stakeholder group that serves as a sound board. >> says Milena Vleminckx-Huybens, Project coordinator of the City of Brussels' Department of Urbanism. 

With the development of the Integrated Action Plan, the City of Brussels aims to give the building back to its neighbourhood by developing a vibrant and open temporary occupation program for the people working and living in the vicinity. The action plan will serve as the project outline taking into account the technical challenges of the building, the stepping stones until realisation, the different partners to execute the program as well as the risks we would have to mitigate.
The objective is to use the Integrated Action Plan to get the necessary support for the realisation and to apply for the required funding. In this way Arlon 104 could serve as a pilot project for many others to follow.

Read more on the 2nd chance Insider #1