New innercity Mechelen and laid out vlieten
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Innercity Mechelen/ The Golden Brick/ Mechelen /Mrch 2019
The Golden Brick
In the past fifteen years, Mechelen has turned in a special way. The unsafe, derelict city with out-dated public space, decaying monuments and a bad image, underwent a remarkable change with Mayor Bart Somers. Now in 2019 we walk through a fresh, pleasant city where there is a positive urban dynamic and the public space has been renewed on a large scale. Reasons enough to award the city of Mechelen The Golden Brick 2019 and to declare it ‘best practice’.
What are the Mechelen success factors for such a remarkable development? In the first place, investments were mainly made in public space in the centre of the city. In the ‘mental map’ of the city dweller, everyone lives in the centre. By tackling the centre first, the city has been prevented from sliding further down. The car and the bus defined the image here, but now the pedestrian is the most important representative. First the Lamot site, the Grote Markt and other squares were tackled. The cars have disappeared in a garage under the squares and the public space has been upgraded. The result is private investments in the city, making Mechelen an attractive alternative for Antwerp and Brussels. It is an alternative for a day out, shopping, tourism, living and working. The city is located exactly between Antwerp and Brussels and is easily accessible. People must see progress. Then the city radials in the centre have been transformed into a ‘cultural axis’, ‘shopping axis’, or just rearranged for bus, bicycle and car in a nice way. The guiding principle for all design interventions is the water that had disappeared from the centre of the city. The city is divided by the river Dijle and small streams called Vlieten. Many streams have been reopened.
Investments in the city in this way for the medium term deliver results in the shorter term, enabling everyone to reinvest again. The qualitative public space has a flywheel effect for all kinds of new initiatives.
Laid out vlieten Mechelen
The policy is clearly paying off. In 2004 there was still the least confidence in the government in Mechelen (city monitor Flemish government). Now its inhabitants have the most confidence in the government.
How is private financing used to finance developments? The private sector is at the service of the city. The city does not have the expertise and know-how, the volume, the scale and (legal) possibilities to realize projects at the same cost price. Parking garages are a good example and are often built much cheaper and more efficiently by the private sector. This reduces the cost price for the city. Another way of private investment is the re-use of monuments. A good example is the hotel with its old, protected swimming pool monument. A conference function is added to the hotel for the city. The flywheel of development has continued with a number of multi-year projects. There will be a new station and station environment, a project with an investment of 350 to 400 million euros. In 2019, an important part of the new library will be delivered. New innovative projects are being raised and investments are being made in the construction of public spaces. The construction sector is an important partner in realizing residential areas. This includes more than 800 homes at the Keerdok. In addition, 2,500 to 3,000 homes are being built behind the station on the Arsenaal site in an area of 80 hectares. The engine for much-needed renovation is in the government’s high-level investments, as a result of which the private sector follows.
An important part of the success is the organization and the way in which private parties and the city work together in synergy. The construction committee is part of this organization. All relevant officials and a delegation from the Mayor and City Counsel Members are present in the building committee. After the presentation of the project, an evaluation, positive or negative advice, preconditions will be obtained, both from the city hall and the administration. In this way, the city clearly ventilates a clear view of the project. In addition, there is the quality team that monitors the content and architectural quality of the projects. In this way financing and project management are efficiently integrated into the design process.
For more information about the project go to projects/ portfolio
Public space plan Mechelen/ Lightplan Mechelen (Studio Susanna Antico)/ Historical map vlieten Mechelen
New station and station surroundings Mechelen (copyright Wannes Wasina)
Predikheren Klooster as a new library (Korteknie Stuhlmacher architecten)