Stating that Living Tomorrow and hometown Vilvoorde have a special relationship, is quite the understatement. From its early beginnings now 26 years ago, the bond has matured into a full-fledged partnership of mutual added value. The new Living Tomorrow Innovation Campus will only add to that. Because the world is changing fast. How will the city tackle its specific challenges? And what role does Living Tomorrow have to play in that masterplan? We spoke to mayor Hans Bonte about past, present and future of his city in transformation.

Mayor Hans Bonte: “First of all, we are very proud to be the ‘hometown’ of Living Tomorrow. It all started with a few visionary statesmen who were smart enough to grant the project a dedicated space, even in the most densely populated area of the country. And for the record, the Living Tomorrow project will continue to have that. The challenges our society is facing are huge and urgent: urban development, mobility, housing, commuting, sustainability… But in our case, considering our particular spatial pressure and conversion of old industries, the impact is twice as hard. So we decided that we must step up our efforts and push the throttle. Living Tomorrow is an essential partner in that undertaking.”

Where visions meet

This is the mission that drives Living Tomorrow since its start, and now for the new Living Tomorrow Innovation Campus, Europe’s largest experimental innovation centre of no less than 10.000 square meters and more than 60 partners. “You can take that quite literally. We regularly convene at the site for meetings with the city council, we feel the surroundings are inspiring. Our relationship with Living tomorrow is one of permanent collaboration and interaction, each with of course complete autonomy. Of course we have taken the expected 1 million visitors into account when conceiving our new and ambitious Mobility Plan”, says Hans Bonte.

Reshaping mobility

Hans Bonte continues: “Living Tomorrow is at the heart of our city and we have to create easy accessibility. In addition, the site plays a central role in the development of a whole new mobility frame, spanning from Brussels airport to the Heizel, an event area in the north of Brussels and the Brussels city centre. This framework contains a radical choice for soft mobility and public transportation, followed by electric private means. In that order. Great things are in the works, like the ‘floating’ bicycle highway and the ‘Ringtrambus’. As I mentioned, Vilvoorde’s geographical situation is a two-edged sword. For all its great assets, there are at least as many challenges, among which the traffic and housing pressure and our industrial heritage”.

Vilvoorde ‘Smart’ City

The new Vilvoorde is to be a far cry from the bleak picture ‘Vilvoorde City’ painted by singer songwriter Kris De Bruyne. For the next years, the city invests heavily in its future mobility, infrastructure, housing and sustainability. “26 years ago, it was unique for a urban development plan to integrate a dedicated space for a project like Living Tomorrow. Now, we reap the benefits. We are proud of our partnership, an alliance from which we both benefit. We explore their knowhow, we get inspired, while we enable accessibility and growth plans. That unique dynamic has proven very valuable in the past, as a relationship in which sharing of knowledge and ambition is key. I am looking forward to see Vilvoorde developing into a Smart City, which would be fitting for the hometown of Living Tomorrow.”

Better quality of life

Hans Bonte concludes: “Nobody wants their street or town centre to be a construction site, but that is the bullet we have to bite. We have to overcome resistance by making a positive, but steadfast decision. One of the pillars is to get a fiberglass information highway into each and every home. So that we can educate, inform and enthuse people. Living Tomorrow will always be one of the great cornerstones of our city and the best reality check for future plans you can wish for. The ultimate goals is not only to get a new mobility on track, but to increase the quality of life of our residents. If we can explain and show that to the people, we will succeed”.

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