New plans for Sint-Wijbrecht: preservation of the historic school facade and fewer nursing homes (Schilde)

Jan Aumann

“We reach out to the municipality of Schilde, the local community and the people who already live in the center of Schilde,” says Francis Vrancken. The managing director of the construction company from Beerse, also known as the chairman of the football club Beerschot, lives in Schilde himself. A few years ago he was able to buy the land of the parish in front of the municipality.

Last year there was quite an uproar over the request to demolish all the old buildings. Instead, 54 nursing homes will be built in combination with a new fire station. The plans were struck down from various angles. The residents of the neighboring Petrus Bogaerts and Leopold Gabriëlslaan saw their privacy and daylight threatened. “The facade with the four linden trees in front is a real landmark in our village centre,” said Patrick Anthoni, chairman of Heemkring Scilla. And the fire brigade also indicated that they would rather stay in Parkske.

The board of aldermen, which was initially enthusiastic about the integration of the fire station, refused a permit in June 2021. “The submitted plans are too large. We received 38 objections from the neighborhood. This project aims for maximum construction and hardening of the site and in terms of scale, space utilization and building density, it is neither suitable nor tailored for our village centre”, stated councilor Marian Van Alphen (Open Vld) the verdict.

Paul Vekemans from the neighborhood of Scilla shows the historic school facade in Sint-Wijbrecht: “landmark for Schilde” © YES

Facade

“We have learned from that history,” says Francis Vrancken modestly. That in April he began to look with great interest at the local history club’s activities in the old boys’ school on the occasion of Heritage Day was a sign on the wall. He got M2, Schildenaar Philip Mortelmans’ architectural firm, to draw up new plans.

“It is impossible to keep the old school building completely. But we must make the white facade shine again as before and restore all valuable elements. Even the four linden trees on the Schoolstraat will remain standing”, Vrancken shows an impression from the preliminary design. “In what will be a brand new building inside, there will be a busy service centre. All Schildenaren will be able to go there and certainly the residents of the only 48 nursing homes being built at the back of the plot. Meals are served and activities are organized.”

View from Petrus Bogaertslaan with the service center in the renovated school on the left and the nursing homes at the back towards the water tower.

View from Petrus Bogaertslaan with the service center in the renovated school on the left and the nursing homes at the back towards the water tower. © M2 Architects

Care business Flanders

Both the operation of the service center and the management of care homes will be handled by Zorgbedrijf Vlaanderen, the largest care provider in our part of the country, which has grown out of Zorgbedrijf Antwerp, but is now active in eighteen municipalities and already manages more than 750 care homes outside the city.

“A number of nursing homes are rented out, but Zorgbedrijf Vlaanderen also sells bonds with a 25-year right of residence. Subsequently or in the event of death, the family receives the full amount back. We have good experiences with, among others, Zorgbedrijf Vlaanderen in Heist-op-den-Berg, Het Eilandje in Antwerp and Zoersel. It is a blessing for the residents of Schilde. The owners will make good agreements with the neighboring house Werf44 regarding offers and programs.”

Information market

Vrancken says he has taken the neighbors into consideration. “The new project is completely different. The new apartments will be oriented towards the water tower, so they will cause little inconvenience. The two new buildings are quite modest in size.”

Another lesson from the previous process: DCA will consult with local residents before the official planning application. “Specifically, we are establishing an information market. Both on Wednesday 31 August (18:00-20:00) and Saturday 3 September (10:00-12:00) everyone can come and see the preliminary design, express their opinion about it and make suggestions for improvements”, the developer invites all interested parties in ‘his’ old school.

“Our architect will use that feedback to prepare the final design. We would like to submit it in the fall. Hopefully we can start building next year. Once we have the permit, we will hand over the building to Zorgbedrijf Vlaanderen, who will be the new owner,” concludes Vrancken. (Yes)

Infomarket care and service center Sint-Wijbrecht on Wednesday 31 August (18:00-20:00) and Saturday 3 September (10:00-12:00) in the old school, Schoolstraat 33 in Schilde.

A beautiful detail from the school's facade with Schilde's coat of arms.

A beautiful detail from the school’s facade with Schilde’s coat of arms. © YES

© DCA

Because vandals visited the empty school, the DCA fenced off the site.

Because vandals visited the empty school, the DCA fenced off the site. © YES

The previous, unlicensed and discarded design for the 54 care homes with service center on Schoolstraat.

The previous, unlicensed and discarded design for the 54 care homes with service center on Schoolstraat. © M2 Architects

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