See U, the Usquare.brussels temporary occupation programme, scoops prize at the Visit.brussels Awards

15 December 2020
Copyright See UCopyright See UThe Velodroom - Copyright Eric Danhier

For more than 10 years now, the Visit.brussels Awards have honoured projects that have enhanced the prestige of Brussels, both nationally and internationally. In each of the competition’s nine categories, different initiatives which are helping to improve the quality of the reception accorded to visitors to the Brussels-Capital Region are voted on by the public. The three projects nominated by the public in each category are then submitted to a panel of professionals from the Brussels tourism industry. See U is the temporary occupation programme for Usquare.brussels, the project for the conversion of the former Fritz Toussaint barracks in Ixelles, initiated by the Urban Development Corporation (SAU). In March, it was nominated by the public, but the Visit.brussels Awards ceremony scheduled for early April was cancelled because of the first lockdown. And visit.brussels has announced today (15 December) that the panel has voted See U the winner in its category.

Gilles Delforge, director of the SAU, expressed delight at “this recognition from both the general public and the panel of tourism professionals. It’s very satisfying to see tribute being paid in this way to the innovative approach initiated by the SAU for this temporary occupation and to the high quality of the work done by the consortium (Creatis / D-Side Group / Troisième Pôle) that the SAU appointed in 2018 to manage it on a daily basis, not to mention the dynamism of the hundred or so project leaders that we have hosted on the site since then. It’s encouraging for all of us to bring this wonderful collective way of doing things to the creation of Usquare.brussels, the project for the conversion of the former Fritz Toussaint barracks into an open, diverse and dynamic district that is urban and welcoming, university-centred and international, sustainable and innovative.’       

Edouard Meier, the head of the Creatis / D-Side Group / Troisième Pôle consortium, stated: “We’re very happy to be able to contribute to the See U project and to show that initiatives like those of the Urban Development Corporation are finding new uses for public buildings and projects. Since its opening, See U has become a true urban laboratory – a public and collective success that showcases economic and community projects in Brussels and presents a new and inclusive way of building a neighbourhood.’

The decision to take advantage of the preparatory phase of the conversion of the former barracks to run a transitional management project there was taken by the SAU, the Region, the universities and the municipality of Ixelles in 2018. The objectives were to make temporarily unoccupied spaces available to community-based, non-profit, cultural and entrepreneurial initiatives; to help bring the site to life; to begin the gradual process of opening it up to the local area; and to ensure the site's security by avoiding the problems associated with derelict sites.

With this in mind, the SAU ran a very open selection procedure in two parts: the appointment by a public procurement process of a transitional manager for the entire site, the consortium Creatis / D-Side Group / Troisième Pôle; and a call for expressions of interest to identify the first temporary occupants for parts of the site. Once the necessary permits had been obtained, the temporary occupation was inaugurated in spring 2019, and the See U team then continued to welcome new projects. The programme got up to speed and there were around a hundred initiatives and some 80,000 visitors during the first 12 months of activity.

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