Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
In Brussels, a hub of alternative housing and arts is being cleared out.
Today's postcard comes from Brussels, where an abandoned church known as "Gesu" is about to be turned into a luxury hotel and apartment complex.
The church and its attached convent hosts a community of over 150 squatters, who were allowed to stay until the 90 million euro construction project began. The squatters mostly hail from the Czech Republic, Spain, Brazil and Morocco and pay about 25 euros per adult each month in rent. Officials, including the municipal mayor, visited earlier this year to discuss current living conditions including issues with shoplifters, burglaries and poor waste management.
The building was deconsecrated in 2005, and it was quickly turned into an alternative housing complex and an alternative arts center that has become a unique addition to the city's night life. Its prime location near the city's main attractions and public transit stations, means the mixed-use conversion is hardly surprising. The Swiss-based developers announced their current plans for the site in 2007 and it's now scheduled to open in the spring of 2017. The developers hope to receive construction permits by the end of the year.
What Gesu turns into at night.
Reuters photographer, Yves Herman, photographed the former religious site this spring, giving us a glimpse of daily life in a community that'll likely bare little resemblance to the one that replaces it after Gesu's next reincarnation: