Smart Turnhout: socially and sustainably innovative
The former sites of packaging company Foresco and steel construction company Atelfond, for which a brownfield covenant was concluded in 2012, are being given a new future in Turnhout. Both socially and ecologically, ‘Smart Turnhout’ is setting new beacons. Construction of the Pioniers building, the heart of the innovative residential project, started in March 2021.
The master plan provides for seven hundred homes, supplemented with offices, shops, student rooms and a residential care centre. Uniquely, Slim Turnhout wants to use social innovation to create a new kind of residential care zone where residents look after each other: a first in Flanders. It gives people the opportunity to live longer in their own homes and leads to lower social costs. The concept was co-devised and developed by VITO and Thomas More University College. The entire project will be equipped with a heat network, which also gives the project an ecologically sustainable character.
PMV provided an innovative form of cooperation between public and private landowners. The creation of a land bank, where all owners receive the same price per square metre for their land, regardless of subsequent development, created a win-win situation where the common interest prevails. Apart from PMV, the City of Turnhout (through Blairon nv, a subsidiary of the Autonoom Gemeente Bedrijf) and developer ION are also shareholders of Slim Turnhout. PMV participates for 88,750 euro (17.75 per cent of the shares) in the capital and granted a subordinated loan of 1,250,000 euro as additional financing. Blairon also obtained a revolving credit of 600,000 euros.
The Pioneers building is the largest building and the heart of the entire project. It will be the driving force behind the social innovation envisaged by the urban development: a new kind of residential care zone where residents take care of each other, a first in Flanders. The contractor for the building was announced in late 2020: vanhout.pro and Hooyberghs unite in TM Niefhout and are carrying out the works on behalf of developer Pionier Construct, which is itself a partnership between property developer ION and Participatiemaatschappij Vlaanderen (PMV). Work on the building is progressing well: the basement is ready and the contractor has started work on the superstructure. During 2022, the square and public domain surrounding The Pioneers building will be constructed. The target date for The Pioneers building and the square is 2023.
The project includes various housing types and facilities. A sales agreement was signed with Blairon SA for the 60 assisted living homes. They will be made available to the local care company that will operate them. For 92 of the 136 flats and 47 underground car parking spaces, an agreement was concluded with the listed group Home Invest Belgium (HIB), on the basis of which HIB will develop, hold and lease these flats. Besides the classic living quarters, ‘common’ areas will also be provided: communal areas that can be used by the residents (relaxation areas, workspace, extra bedrooms…). The commercialisation of the remaining properties will be handled by ION’s sales team in combination with a local real estate agent.
PMV’s added value for the other partners consisted mainly in setting up a land bank and translating it into the establishment of a company with a detailed financial plan and agreements between the parties in a shareholders’ agreement. PMV acts as a go-between between the private and public sectors to define, reconcile and capture the interests of both. PMV remains closely involved in the project both as shareholder, as director and as manager. In doing so, the investment company makes its expertise and network available. PMV also participates in the developments of the further phases.
The project in numbers
Slim Turnhout nv is only responsible for ground exploitation. Major investments included the purchase of a number of properties to make the project possible and the construction of infrastructure and public domain. These investments (€13 million) will be financed through shareholders’ own funds and bank loans. Slim Turnhout nv will sell the land in phases to project companies (the current 3 partners have the option to participate) that will develop the buildings. A total of around 700 residential units, hospitality outlets and shops will be realised. There will also be 18,000 sq m of offices. The total investment of the project is estimated at €160 million.
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