Following the closure of its packaging plant, Crown left its premises in the Lageweg district of Hoboken in 2013. Lageweg in Hoboken is a mixed area in Antwerp's 20th-century belt. It is a residential area combined with business activities, urban facilities, abandoned industrial buildings or land, contaminated sites and fragmented properties. As part of Labo XX, the City of Antwerp already investigated the possibilities for urban renewal in the outskirts of the city, the twentieth-century city belt, in 2012. The study selected Lageweg as a pilot project, due to the opportunities for current and future residents and employees of the area with regard to business, industry, densification and urban facilities. The City owns very little land in this district. Therefore, it initiated an exploratory study in 2015 in cooperation with landowners, the Knowledge Centre for Flemish Cities and the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM) to create a common vision for the district’s future. This is the first time the city has cooperated in this way to improve an area it does not own. The research by design in the district is also part of the Back in Circulation pilot project 'Lage weg - Hoboken', a joint initiative by the Flemish Government Architect's Team, OVAM, the Environment Department and a number of other public partners. The project aims to research and test the spatial development potential of contaminated sites.
In this context, the project developer wanted to involve the Crown site in the site’s redevelopment as a participatory process. One of the objectives of the Back in Circulation pilot projects is to reuse vacant industrial heritage. In this way, DC Belgium’s ambition was to help prevent the site from remaining vacant for more than 10 years, only to end up as a new district, without taking into account the existing dynamics and current socio-spatial neighbourhood fabric. In anticipation of the final housing project, DC Belgium opened up the warehouses for temporary use. In 2018, the Blikfabriek moved in, and in the years thereafter it would play a central role in the participatory process for the district’s redevelopment. The Blikfabriek was created and shaped bottom-up from within the district from the interplay of public actors and private owners.
The Blikfabriek is home to local residents, creative entrepreneurs, artists, start-ups, sports and socio-cultural activities. It offers many multifunctional and green meeting spaces, of which the neighbourhood café Cantin has been the beating heart since 2019. In addition, the Blikfabriek houses co-users of the site, such as the ‘maakfabriek’, the skate depot, a dance studio, urban sports centre Garrincha, Intense altitude trail, Slim vzw Huiswerkklas, Wilgroei - neighbourhood garden in the making, Natuurpunt, etc. There are also studios for artists, woodworkers and metalworkers, and indoor sports facilities.
Lageweg is characterised by abandoned industrial heritage, residential working-class districts and the proximity of a new piece of urban fabric. The aim of the Blikfabriek is to strengthen the existing social fabric of the neighbourhood, thereby increasing social and spatial cohesion. Activating the site in the short term serves as a stepping stone to redevelopment in the long term. Currently, DC Belgium is offering existing residents the possibility of eventually joining a permanent mixed building project. In the meantime, the organisations housed in the Blikfabriek have the opportunity to expand their organisational and development model before deciding whether or not to participate. By adopting this approach the Blikfabriek is breaking with traditional urban renewal logic.
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