22 November 2023
Omarm Stuivenberg

Dear members of the city council,

As residents of Antwerp we are very concerned.

The Stuivenberg district is a fantastic neighbourhood, but we face major needs. About six times more people on average live per square meter in our neighbourhood than in other places in the city. There is almost twice as much paved space and five times less quality green per inhabitant. Thousands of children are growing up in our neighbourhood. So we need breathing space, space where we can relax, meet each other and play! Children are the future, children deserve every opportunity. They stay now indoors, due to a lack of space to play safely. Recent research by Kind en Samenleving vzw undeniably demonstrates this.

Half of the children in our neighbourhood grows up in an underprivileged family, which is twice as much as average in the city. This neighbourhood therefore needs space that offers people opportunities. Opportunities to relax and cope with stress to survive. Opportunities to get together and expand their own network. Opportunities to play, participate in sports or other leisure activities and to take part fully in society. The new Stuivenberg site is the leverage we need. We have been looking forward to it for years!

A design for the site has been ready since the summer of 2022. It's a promising project. Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architects, Bovenbouw Architecten, BOOM Landscape, architectural firm Sabine Okkerse and Stramien & Partners have made this plan after years of study and design. As local residents, we have been able to pass on ideas at online and offline consultation moments. Our needs have been included in the plan, which makes us very happy.

The outlines of the plan consist of a large proportion of green, public spaces. The historic buildings would house the hospital psychiatric department, housing, commerce, a school and enhance neighbourhood functions. This was to be read on the AG Vespa website. An approach for implementation was also ready. A temporary use would give local residents access to the site as early as 2023. The demolition of the 1980s buildings would also start not later than 2024. However, the concrete plans were described somewhat differently everywhere.

The board got back on its word. At the end of 2022, the council suddenly decided that the first phase of the renovation would be postponed until 2026. The hospital moved in September 2023. The gates around the garden are closed and the site is not in use. All of a sudden we are told that 'the ground-breaking will have to wait three years'.

As a neighbourhood, we keep asking ourselves questions. What, city managers, is your vision and action plan for the temporary use of the Stuivenberg site? Will the neighbourhood be involved in this process? Why has the budget for temporary use suddenly been reduced? Why has there been a timing change of the final works? Why are you postponing the major investments for permanent construction until 2026? If the works are no longer carried out in phases, does this mean that a pop-up bar and gardens along Pesthofstraat will be the only thing we will be able to use as a neighbourhood for the next ten years? Why have you wasted so much time? Why is there money for prestige projects elsewhere and not for the Stuivenberg site? What will be the effect of lack of priorities for the project as a whole?

As local residents, we want an open and clear communication from you, members of the city council. We want promises to be kept and sufficient budgets to be allocated in return. Show us that our concern is unjustified. Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in the pouring rain asking for clarity and a green and social interpretation of the site. The last real investment with added value in our neighbourhood was Park Spoor Noord. This investment dates back fourteen years ago. Investing in our neighbourhood means offering people opportunities, anticipating climate challenges and allowing thousands of children to be children. Omarm Stuivenberg offers a cooperative hand. Members of the city council, make this site the leverage that we all need. As promised.

We look forward to your answer.

Kind neighbourhood greetings,

Omarm Stuivenberg

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