Looking for spatial practices to address vacant commercial premises in Boom's commercial core.
In recent years, vacancy of commercial buildings in village and city centres has seen a general increase. According to recent statistics, more than 7,000 commercial properties in Flanders are long-term and structurally empty. This trend had been going on for some time in small villages, but now also cities and larger villages are facing this problem. The leader in vacant commercial buildings in the province of Antwerp is Boom. Boom is a large and urban village along the A12, with a vacancy rate of 21.9%.
Within this masterthesis, the challenge of vacant commercial buildings in commercial centres is examined from the specific conditions of a municipality. The municipality of Boom has been used as a case here. On the basis of a broad analysis, the vacancy in Boom is understood and mapped out. To this analysis, Turnhout is added as a case to provide a comparative context. During this comparison, some similarities recurred between the two municipalities, such as the rise of big stores along important roads and how a multicultural population affects the composition of commerce. Several actions then respond to this analysis, to provide a solution to vacancy in the centre of Boom. These actions aim to look at vacancy from a bottom-up perspective, for example by gathering the needs of the neighbourhood and imagining possible infills. From this analysis and actions, strategies are then designed that answer to the problem of vacancy in the commercial centre of Boom.
The analysis, actions and strategies come together in three themes, resulting out of the needs of the neighbourhood: 'De beleefkern' (1) 'op ooghoogte' (2) 'gaat in dialoog' (3). These three themes form a narrative and are united in 'het Beleefplan'. This is an advice to the municipality of Boom to address vacancy in the centre. Thus, there is a shift from a commercial centre to 'de beleefkern', where a mix of functions is possible. In addition, the aim is to create a vibrant street at eye level, with the street corners as catalysts. Finally, engaging in dialogue is important and efforts should be made to form networks and clear communication channels. This masterthesis tries to provide another perspective to look at this issue, in addition to the policy-oriented one. Thus, 'het Beleefplan' is also an inspiration for other municipalities facing this problem.