“Leuven is both compact and cosmopolitan,” says Lies Corneillie. “Although everything is small, close-by, and pleasant, the city has a lot to offer, including a world-class university and several large companies. The people of Leuven also bring their own wealth of ideas, activities, and perspectives.”
Leuven is a trendsetter when it comes to sustainable city living. In 2019, the city council issued a new governance approach and recently gave the go-ahead to a new development in the city center: Burenberg, a sustain- able housing development near the city center.
The diverse clientele that will be residing here is remarkable. Indeed, the housing development has a lot to offer, including single-family homes, student rooms, apartments, co-living rooms, a residential facility, and assisted-living apartments. Corneillie says this is not exceptional: “People have been living together for generations. This can occasionally cause tensions, but we like to turn this into some- thing positive. Volunteering, for example. Interns and young people become involved in community centers, retirement homes, or their own neighborhoods. We listen to the residents and try to find solutions together if there are any problems.”
Promoting encounters between different generations is not a matter of course. The “stand up for your community” initiatives are a response to this. “These initiatives allow res- idents to organize something for their neighborhood. This can take many different forms, from green socializing spots to book exchange boxes,” says Alderwoman Lies Corneillie. “We trigger spontaneous interactions just by let- ting people take the initiative.”
Kristien was born and raised in West Flanders but fell in love with Leuven’s charms in her student days.
“Leuven immediately won my heart during my student days, which is why I bought a house there in 1986. Although it’s a small and pleasant town, it has so much to offer. Whichever direction you take, you can be in the countryside within ten minutes. When we built these homes, we found it essential to have plenty of sunlight coming into our living space. That’s why our living quarters are on the top floor and the sleeping quarters on the ground floor. In that way, we always have a holiday atmosphere in our own homes.”
Originally a Kortrijk native, Axel stuck around in Leuven after he completed his studies. He is currently living in the oldest house in town.
“Ever since my twenties, I have been enamored by Leuven’s historic city center, its friendly restaurants and cafes, and the river Dyle meandering through. And its international character is one of the main reasons why I’m still living here. Therefore, we feel privileged to be living in Leuven’s oldest house, which is a listed building. In 2005, my wife and I renovated our house into a home full of character and history, following all the rules of Heritage Architecture.”
Genade De Lille
Genade was born 85 years ago in Maldegem and is now a proud citizen of Leuven.
“Living in Leuven is like heaven on earth to me. When I walk out my door, I can immediately enjoy the green spaces around the river Dyle and the historical setting of St. Peter’s Church. I bought my home from an Antwerp lawyer. He told me, 'If you want to buy the houses, you will have to buy all five of them.' I worked with the architect Bruno Erdico to convert three of the five hovels into my cozy home, and that at the age of 81!”
Gosse is the owner of the Bereklauw community and has been living in Leuven since 1965.
“Back in 1965, I arrived at my student lodgings in Leuven, fully packed and ready to go. In 1972, having had a taste of city life for a few years, I moved to the Bereklauw community. More than anything, we were tired of the city bustle and wanted to become self-sufficient in terms of living and gardening. We have had many international young people making pit stops at our ‘eco-village’ home. Our community lets you rediscover your own talents and get back to the ‘basics of living.’ Everyone is welcome to come and stay here, so long as you have a passion for sustainable living and like rolling up your sleeves.”