Kortrijk is located in the Flemish speaking part of Belgium, Flanders near the French border. We have 75.000 inhabitants and are the 6th biggest town in Flanders. Kortrijk is the centre town of and urbanised area of 280.000 people, our city dates from medieval times and we have some historic buildings that are classified as world heritage by UNESCO.
We have a past in Textile industries, mainly FLAX. But in recent years we have developed into a city filled with SME’s that have reconverted after the textile crisis in the 70s. We are also known for our building materials mainly tiles and bricks. Our world wide most famous enterprise however is BARCO VISION, known for it’s digital projection and video walls. One of our most important trumps is the modern and big infrastructure for fairs. We have several big fairs in Kortrijk. Two are very well known. Bus world which has branches in Shanghai and Mumbai, even in Istanbul this fair for busses and touring cars is known. The other is Interior: this is the second biggest for interior design and furniture after the Milan fair.
Kortrijk is situated next to the expanding French city Lille. We have joined Lille and Tournai in the first ever European Grouping Territorial Cooperation in the European Union. We are part of the Euro district and it will be a challenge to find our role as a medium sized town in this Metropolis. Since the 90s we are adapting our policy by enhancing centre function and we are giving our city a new drive. The first step was the overall improvement of our public spaces.
We combine international architects with our local engineers. The market place was designed by Bernardo Secchi from Milan and for our pedestrian area we worked with Jordi Farrando from Barcelona. One of the biggest project is the calibration of the river Leie that runs through the city centre. It is part of the trans European network connection between Le Havre and Rotterdam by waterway for vessels up to 4000 tons. This project means we are building 7 new bridges over the river, the challenge was to change this technical infrastructure into an opportunity to create a new city image and to experience the quality of water in the inner-city.
Next to the improvement of public spaces we have also chosen to inject a shot of enterprises in the city centre by constructing a new inner-city shopping mall of 35000 square meters that will hold nearly 100 new shops. It was a conscious decision -not free of risk- to construct this mall in the city centre and in the existing pedestrian area and not in the periphery. The opening is foreseen for march 2010 and we hope it will give a new commercial boost to the city.
The city baseline is KORTRIJK, city of innovation creation and design. In order to develop this baseline we have created a platform of 5 stakeholders on regional level where we combine the public sector with the economic world and the educational institutes. Our University is leading our country in gaming , multimedia and product design. One of our urban development programs tries to change the BUDA Island into a creative nest for artists. An old cinema complex, brewery tower and factory building are adjusted to create space for creativity and art production. We are also home to the Flemish institute for Research and design in the field of plastics, and the Flemish competence centre for industrial design also known as Flanders in shape. The next big thing in Kortrijk is the construction of a modern knowledge centre -as a driver for the development of the railway station neighbourhood also in the centre of the city. We combine the library of the 21st century with life long learning and with multimedia and music institutes. We have selected the well-known American architecture office REX that constructed the library in Seattle. We are at the moment in the phase of financing the project. We are not unfamiliar with the concept of European project and networks. For example in E government we have been involved in some interreg projects. Most recently the innofestival project in the 7th framework program PRO INNO has been approved, together with our partner Barcelona , Milan, Lisbon, Vilnius and Talinn. We are going to organise the European innovation week called innovation festival for the next three years. Themes witch capture our interest are Life Long learning, innovation and entrepreneurship, library of the 21st century, waterfront development and E- government and E -care.
We hope that Eurotowns has the strength to develop impact on the European agenda to do more for the medium sized cities.
Contact person for Eurotowns