Partner update - Economisch Huis Oostende

Wednesday, June 9, 2021 - 14:29

Economisch Huis Oostende/ Economic House of Ostend

Colleagues from the Belgium coastal town of Oostende are helping to develop the local economy by working on employment projects, retail and attracting new businesses. 

A new future for meeting centre De 3 Gapers

After a thorough evaluation of the functioning of meeting centre De 3 Gapers, it appeared that the centre is in need of an upgrade. In September, renovation works will start, resulting in the closure of the meeting centre for about a year. The intention is to transform De 3 Gapers into a community centre that can meet the needs of all inhabitants of the district, both young and old. Thanks to the European SPEED-You-UP project, pupils from the nearby Petrus and Paulus West school can participate in the neighbourhood analysis and the renovation process. The project is a collaboration between the City of Ostend, the school group and the Economic House of Ostend.

For years, meeting centre De 3 Gapers has been doing valuable work in a building at the ‘Gerechtsplein’. However, both the building and the operations of the centre need an upgrade. The building will be completely renovated and, in the meantime, a neighbourhood analysis will be carried out in order to attune future operations to the needs and wishes of the neighbourhood.


New interpretation: connecting young and old

The current functioning of the De 3 Gapers meeting centre is valuable, but a bit too limited. For example, the centre is only open in the afternoon and there is no possibility to have a hot meal, as in other meeting centres. The outdoor activities, such as the traditional neighbourhood festival with flea market, are an absolute hit and will be retained in the future. Of course, the volunteer work will also continue to play an important role in the future.

Alderman Maxim Donck: "De 3 Gapers is a building in a strategically interesting location in the district. The ambition is not to diminish but rather to expand its operation. De 3 Gapers will evolve from a meeting centre to a neighbourhood centre, with a lot of new functions, thus meeting the needs of everyone in the neighbourhood."

The community centre will be a shared-use building: room rental (both for associations and city services), meeting rooms, but also space for care and welfare (e.g. primary care psychologist). Permanent operation can continue during the renovation.

Alderman Maxim Donck: "The intention is to turn De 3 Gapers into a vibrant place in the neighbourhood that will connect young and old. We are using the opportunity of the renovation to prepare for the future."

The renovation will start in September. The work will take about one year, so completion is planned for the end of 2022. In the meantime, the building will be closed. For the regular visitors and volunteers, this is obviously a challenge.

Alderman Maxim Donck: "Because meeting centre De 3 Gapers had too limited capacity between the two lockdowns to apply all the measures properly, the regular visitors and volunteers moved to MC De Schelpe. They will also be able to go there during the renovation. Larger activities were already being held in the large hall of the nearby Petrus en PauIus West school.”


Support via the European SPEED-You-UP project

The renovation story of MC De 3 Gapers is part of the European SPEED-You-UP project of which the Economic House of Ostend is the lead partner. The general objective of the project is to reduce the number of early school leavers and NEETs. NEETs are young people between 15 and 24 who are not in education or training and who are not working. SPEED-You-UP is a social innovation project within the European INTERREG programme that aims to motivate and encourage young people to develop entrepreneurial skills.

"Within SPEED-You-UP, young people work together on a location to develop a business idea," says alderman for Entrepreneurship Charlotte Verkeyn. "The renovation of MC De 3 Gapers is the ideal case for the school Petrus en Paulus West to work out such a business project together with the pupils."

Petrus and Paulus West will employ a coordinator to guide and support the students. Those personnel resources will come from the European SPEED-You-UP project. "After the renovation, we will look into the possibility of continuing to work with young people," says alderman Verkeyn.


Opportunity for the school Peter and Paul West

Petrus en Paulus West (formerly VTI Oostende) has been searching for some time for a good way to integrate entrepreneurship in the curriculum of its students. "With the European SPEED-You-UP project, we have the opportunity to sharpen the students' sense of entrepreneurship with a very concrete project. Being able to help shape a real renovation project from A to Z is a challenge for many pupils and has a very motivating effect. The location of MC De 3 Gapers is an opportunity for the school as it is close by," says principal Ludo Viaene.

Together with the coordinator, pupils are expected to work on the renovation: the plan of approach, feasibility, how and where to buy materials, planning of the construction works, drawing up of offers and bookkeeping.

In addition to business management, it offers the opportunity to investigate more difficult construction issues in reality. Moreover, collaborations with some contractors can arise, which can further inspire the students.