Temporary occupation of Usquare.brussels to open this weekend

The Director of the Urban Development Corporation (sau-msi.brussels) and the See U team today revealed to the media the activities of the first temporary occupants of the former Fritz Toussaint barracks in Ixelles (see pictures), in a preview of the opening weekend of See U, the transitional management phase of Usquare.brussels, which will take place this Saturday, April 27 evening and Sunday, April 28 all day.

During the opening weekend, the See U team will offer locals and Brussels residents the chance to tour the site and meet the temporary occupants who are moving in, discover the monumental fresco by Jean-Luc Moerman, who has created a work covering the entire front of one of the site’s buildings, and visit an all-day flea market on Sunday 28 (program (PDF) in French or Dutch).

Coordinator of Usquare.brussels

As part of its mission of overseeing the operational implementation of priority development areas, the SAU-MSI is managing the conversion of the Fritz Toussaint barracks, which the Region has purchased from the Federal State. The aim of this project, called Usquare.brussels, is to transform a site of nearly 4 hectares that has historically been enclosed and surrounded by a perimeter wall, into a new open, diverse and dynamic district that is urban and welcoming, university-centred and international, sustainable and innovative. This district will meet the needs of the inhabitants of Brussels, and  particularly local residents, while hosting a project of international significance backed by ULB and VUB, for which the SAU-MSI is working closely with the two universities.

The role of the SAU-MSI on the site of this former military complex is to open it up to the city; to promote its architectural heritage; to develop housing for families and student accommodation; to create welcoming and attractive public spaces; to introduce facilities accessible to local residents, including a sustainable food court in the former riding school; to host a ULB and VUB project focusing on sustainable development; and to coordinate all the stakeholders needed to complete the project successfully.

An innovative and very open temporary occupation process

The SAU-MSI, the Region, the universities and the municipality of Ixelles wanted to take advantage of the preparatory phase of the conversion of the former gendarmerie school to run a transitional management project there. 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-MSI ran a very open selection procedure in two parts.

  • First, it appointed by competitive tender a ‘dynamic manager’, the Creatis / D-Side Group / Troisième Pôle consortium, which is responsible for the coordination, management and revitalisation of the entire site during the transitional phase.
  • Second, and in parallel, it launched a call for expressions of interest (CEI) to identify temporary occupants for parts of the site. The CEI attracted 71 applications, which were analysed by the Usquare.brussels steering committee, consisting of the Creatis / D-Side Group / Troisième Pôle consortium, the Facilities Department of the Brussels Regional Public Service (SPRB-GOB), the municipality and the universities. The first forty temporary occupants were selected, taking into account the CEI criteria and the possibilities in the buildings according to the requests for spaces expressed. They were presented in November 2018 at a public meeting organised by the SAU-MSI for people living nearby, at which great enthusiasm was shown by the local population.

Since November, the SAU-MSI has carried out work to restore the buildings, and has applied for and obtained the planning permission for the temporary occupation. The See U team has allocated the occupants to the available spaces, dealt with practical questions to do with moving in and defined the initial outlines of the site’s programme of activities, which the public will be able to discover this weekend.

More on