Short description: Antwerp is a harbour city located in the North of Belgium with about 493,000 inhabitants. The Pure Hubs activities here are focusing on the neighbourhood Luchtbal. More information can be found on the Pure Hubs website:
Findings: Luchtbal is an urban neighbourhood built on artificially created land between the harbour of Antwerp and the motorway/railway lines. It is located north of the core city of Antwerp. The neighbourhood of Luchtbal has about 5700 inhabitants. 70% are older than 70, while 18% are younger than 10. Amongst the residents, 14% are of Moroccan and 10% of black African ethnicity. The area is characterised in the southern parts by large urban perimeter blocks of social housing, in the middle area by large tower blocks and in the northern parts by lower density terraced housing, most likely built in the 1920s. The area is characterised by socio-economic deprivation, though local organiser Hugo Maenhout stressed that it is not the poorest area in Antwerp. Furthermore the area features a large ethnic mix. Currently there are large physical regeneration processes taking place. The perimeter blocks in the south have already been regenerated and a local branch of the city administration has been built within the block. The middle part is currently undergoing regeneration with a new housing area being built. Hugo Maenhout, the local guide, works for the city of Antwerp. He has worked for many years in organising and facilitating community projects and events, such as neighbourhood street parties etc. Recently he took on the role of establishing community gardens across the city. One garden is already established. It is called Grimsby garden, as it is located next to Grimsby street. A second garden is planned in close proximity to the southern perimeter block housing. All over the city there are plans for “bottom-up gardens” on temporary or permanent vacant land. Part of his role is to check that it is ok to use the site for a garden. It is also important to stress that these gardens are not allotments, as they do not consist of individual plots, linked to specific groups or individuals. Hugo also agrees that there is currently great enthusiasm for community gardening in Belgium, with other projects planned in Turnhout and Gent. The goal of the community projects and the community gardens is social cohesion. He refers to the “Obsinioren” programme, which are street actions and community events organized by citizens. Antwerp has about 500 000 inhabitants, 1/3 of which would be in need of urban gardens. The projects are intended as a temporary use, though in practical terms the use will in many cases last long. Overall estimates say that 60% of vacant land in the city is polluted, which can put constraints on using these sites for gardening. One of the planned projects is to reuse an old nursery for plants following an agreement with the social housing provider Wonhaven. Overall, the programme is targeted on those areas without gardens, but it is not exclusive to deprived areas.
This description of a Pure Hubs project is based on information gathered during a visit to the project partners in November 2012. The purpose is to provide additional information to the profiles of each project which is available via the Pure Hubs website.