Whenever ION purchases a site to develop a major project, this is the start of a multi-annual process. It takes a lot of time to apply for licences, carry out calculations, develop plans and designs and eventually perform the construction involved in large-scale projects. But why not use available sites for another purpose in the meantime?
Over the years, we have tried to find a temporary use for vacant sites on several occasions. Thanks to such initiatives, local residents get acquainted with our future project as a new and vibrant part of their town or city. This has been the case in Leuven, Veurne and Turnhout, for instance.
Burenberg in Leuven – Bar Bleu
At the site of the former ACCO printing company in the centre of Leuven, ION is about to develop Burenberg, a versatile project including flats, offices, co-living spaces, student accommodation and an elderly care facility. It will also feature an innovative heat network and smart water management system to make the project as sustainable as possible.
An old chapel converted into a cosy bar
The innovativeness and versatility of the Burenberg project can already be seen at the site. The old monastic complex with its enclosed garden has been used as a pop-up bar (Bar Bleu) for several years.
In previous summers – prior to the coronavirus pandemic – the chapel served as a wonderful setting for comedy performances, silent discos and other activities. In September of last year, the former monastery was opened up to the public on Open Monuments Day, and last winter, local residents were invited to enjoy a superb Christmas concert by Cappella Concinite.
The summer bar has opened its doors this year as well, but with appropriate health and safety measures (e.g. sufficient distance between tables and a QR code for consulting the menu).
Bar Bleu has been made possible with the help of local partners who provided the locally produced furniture, artwork, gastronomy, etc. ION aims to strengthen local support for the project through this temporary use.
Suikerpark in Veurne – Suikerstad
On the other side of Flanders, another ION project is in the pipeline: Suikerpark. The industrial site of the former sugar refinery is located next to Veurne’s historical centre. That is where ION is planning the phased construction of housing units, leisure facilities and workspaces within a green park environment. within a green park environment. And this green environment is already being used for fun family activities.
Activities for young and old
One of these activities was Suikercup, organised during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The site was transformed into a World Cup village with bars, food trucks and a giant TV screen. Unfortunately, there is no UEFA European Football Championship this year, but we still partnered with the City of Veurne and the province of West FIanders to offer a coronavirus-proof alternative: Suikerstad.
In Suikerstad there’s much to do. From 16 July to 16 August, we organised a wide range of pop-up activities for everyone to enjoy. These included a temporary library, a music school, an exhibition by local artist Trebla and a pop-up bar where refreshing drinks were served. Children were able to enjoy themselves in the playground, the petting zoo and the fun fair. Even a dog park was especially provided for man’s best friend.
Niefhout in Turnhout – Panorama Zomerbar
The third industrial site we temporarily repurposed is a former bakery site near Turnhout train station. For several years, ION has been working on the Niefhoutproject: a new neighbourhood with apartments, single-family dwellings, offices, a hotel and service flats. A heat network will also be built and 20,000 m² of public green space will be created.
The new place to be
Panorama Zomerbar has become a household name in Turnhout. Since the summer of 2015, this summer bar has been the place to be in town. Located next to the bar, ‘De Barak’ serves delicious meals and snacks. In previous summers, Panorama Zomerbar also served as the setting for various events such as performances, vintage clothing markets, a brunch and a film screening. Het duurzame karakter van dit project werd in de zomer van 2019 extra in de verf gezet met een succesvolle duurzaamheidsmarkt en het geefplein, waar mensen van alles konden weggeven of ruilen.
Active visitors can enjoy themselves in the exercise park and the BMX track laid out next to the summer bar. Finally, a community garden has been provided to and by the new residents of Niefhout.