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Construction of a new district in Ghent brings life to old docks  

Years ago, the port of Ghent was located in the Old Dockyards area, to the east of the historical city centre. However, port activities gradually moved to the new municipal port, which is situated just north of the city. Gradually, the vicinity of the Old Dockyards fell into disrepair, becoming a real ‘no man’s land’. However, things are starting to change now. Thanks to the EU-funded Old Dockyards project, the area is being radically transformed into a brand new vibrant quarter, where citizens can live and work near the waterfront and in a green, sustainable environment. One of the first components to the project involved renovating the quay walls to ensure their safety and stability One of the first components to the project involved renovating the quay walls to ensure their safety and stability. The Old Dockyard’s project aims to help Ghent solve its housing shortage by providing approximately 1 500 new housing units, along with a range of office and retail spaces, and recreational, cultural and natural areas. Public services include an elementary school, day care centre and neighbourhood sports hall. The entire area is connected to the city centre via an extension of the public transport network, bicycle and pedestrian bridges.

As the focus of the overall ERDF-funded project was redevelopment, special care has been taken to maintain the area’s historical character by reusing elements of its architectural and industrial heritage. For example, four historic cranes have been incorporated into the project skyline. A former concrete plant has been largely preserved, taking on a new function as part of the largest park in the area. Furthermore, a range of additional maritime industrial elements – from anchors to old train wagons – have been reintroduced into the Old Dockyards’ public spaces. The goal is to create a touristic industrial route while, at the same time, providing recreational areas for children. One of the project’s first components was renovation of the quay walls to ensure their safety and stability since this area was planned as a recreational strip for pedestrians and cyclists and will become the backbone to the future dockyard. Another important feature concerned renovation of a series of disused gravel tanks, formerly used for transferring gravel and sand between ships and trucks. Through limited interventions, a team of young architects and artists have transformed this area into a unique multi-purpose public space. Today, the setting is a hot spot for youth, artists and families from the neighbourhood.

Unlike many urban development projects, the focus here is not on financial aspects, but on creating a liveable, vibrant and green new city district able to respond to the needs of the city’s inhabitants. Daniël Termont, Mayor of Ghent said: “Our ambition is to further reduce the ecological footprint of Ghent and to evolve towards a climate neutral city". This means prioritising ample greenspace and family-orientated housing over the building of high-rise accommodation. Also very important has been the creation of a social network for residents, via the area’s many playgrounds, a school and kindergarten, multifunctional halls and a library. As a result of this citizen-first focus, the successful Old Dockyards project will provide for generations to come. Total investment for the project “Creation of a new city district next to Gent (Oude Dokken – Kaaimuur Achterdok Oost)” is EUR 2 480 000, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 959 000 through the “Flanders” Operational Programme ​

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