1882 | Laying The Foundation stone of the Avant-Port
ON THE 11TH OF JUNE 1882 THE MINISTER OF CIVIL WORKS LAID DOWN THE FOUNDATION STONE OF THE AVANT-PORT (VOORHAVEN)
Emile Braun, a young engineer, was responsible for the successful completion of the Avant-Port. He later became an important politician for the liberal party and many years later he was elected to become the mayor of Ghent. His immense popularity as a mayor, with his tenure lasting until well after World War I can be seen through the nickname he was given by the people of Ghent, 'Miele Zoetekoeke - Emile Sweet Bread'. The central square, Emile Braunplein, next to City Hall still honors his name today. Building the new dock with a length of over one kilometer, Braun doubled the capacity of the Ghent Sea Port. He constructed the Avant-Port with the same innovative technology that was used for building the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City only a few years earlier.
1885 - 1890 | Ghent city engineer Emile Braun constructs cotton sheds 20, 21, 22 , 23 , 24 and 26
ALONG THE AVANT-PORT DOCK SIX MONUMENTAL SHEDS FOR COTTON STORAGE WERE BUILT
At the end of the 19th century Ghent was one of the most important textile centers in continental Europe. In the city center textile mills were ubiquitous. Even one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ghent today, the 12th century "Castle of the Counts" housed a textile mill. Cotton was imported by ship and stored in these massive steel cotton sheds.
The sheds were built partly with steel construction elements, recycled from the World Exposition in Antwerp in 1885. A total of 6 railroads along the Avant-Port were used to transport the cotton to the mills in the city and far beyond.
1930 | The Avant-Port is downgraded to become an inner port
WITHIN 30 YEARS THE AVANT-PORT BECOMES THE INNER PART OF THE GHENT HARBOR
In the years to come larger and larger sea ships visited the Ghent Sea Port. Deeper and wider docks were needed to accomodate them. At the beginning of the 21st century the autonomous public company "Havenbedrijf Gent GAB" was assembled, finally excluding the Avant - Port from the active Ghent Harbor.
1990 | Sheds 22 and 23 barely escape demolition
IN 1990 SHED 24 IS DEMOLISHED BY THE CITY OF GHENT
This was not the first building demolished at the Avant-port. At the end of the 80's shed 21 was also demolished in order to provide space for a repair workshop which rewinds electric motors. Even worse, in 1990 demolition permits for cotton sheds 22 and 23 were issued by the City of Ghent. Late "Captain" André De Wilde, General Director of the Port of Ghent, was happy to reconsider demolition of the remaining sheds when Dirk Valvekens of LOCUS DEVELOPMENTS, together with London based architects FORM DESIGN, presented new ideas for their redevelopment. In the end it took Dirk more than 12 years of persistent negotiating with the city to finally buy sheds 22 and 23 in September 2002.
1996 | Voorhaven (Avant-Port) and Tolhuis become an historic district
WALTER BLOMME (WATERFRONT GALLERY IN SHED 26) INITIATES THE PROTECTION OF THE AVANT-PORT
On November 20th 1996, TOLHUIS AND VOORHAVEN officially became the largest Historic District of the City of Ghent. 14 buildings and structures, among them the remaining cotton sheds 20, 22, 23 and 26, became Listed Monuments. Other buildings and structures in the area now also enjoy Listed Monument status. These include: the cast iron fencing, which is 1.1 km long, along with the gate houses at shed 22, the beautiful steel swing bridge on railway line 58 crossing the Avant-Port, the yellow brick fire engine station at Londenstraat and the mid 20th century harbor cranes resting on shed 20.
2002 - 2010 | Towards a New Avant-Port
SEVERAL MONUMENTS GET RENOVATED
The city of Ghent restored the Harbor Cranes and parts of the beautiful cast iron fencing that border the Avant-Port, which were included as Listed Monuments. In addition the swing railway bridge crossing the dock at shed 20 was replaced by an identical new bridge by the Belgian railroad company NMBS - SNCB. In the former Fire Engine station at Londenstraat a social housing project was built and along Londenstraat the City constructed a new Voorhavenpark.
Enjoying 40% grants by local authorities shed 20 has undergone basic restoration works by its owner.
Meanwhile - without grants - LOCUS DEVELOPMENTS has transformed the listed cotton shed 22 into a contemporary business center on the first floor and 23 residential lofts on the second.
2010 - Today | The Avant-Port becomes a major attraction for creative enterprises
TODAY MORE THAN 250 YOUNG PEOPLE WORK IN AND AROUND SHED (LOODS) 22
Because of the unique maritime atmosphere, its perfect position in relation to the city center, the harbor and easy access to the highway, today more and more creative enterprises are joining us at the Avant-Port. With the development of the listed cotton shed 23 we aim to further develop the Avant-Port as a center for creative and disruptive industries.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT US IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A CONTEMPORARY SPACE WITH A RICH HISTORY. DONT MISS OUT ON YOUR CHANCE TO CALL THE AVANT-PORT YOUR HOME AND/OR PLACE TO WORK!