The city council of Ostend has given the green light to a development project which will transform a former harbour warehouse into a mega-brothel with its own police station.
The project is the idea of developers ION, and involves the building known as Hangar 1, which as the name suggests used to be a warehouse on the quayside, and more recently a dance and music venue.
The building itself is listed, but despite that has been empty for years and is now in a state of disrepair.
Under its new management, it will include 30 or so window displays for sex workers, a business centre, a general purpose hall, restaurant facilities and the obligatory micro-brewery.
It will also include a police station, a social work office and medical facilities.
“The restoration cost is high, and in this way the building will be restored and a profitable operation can be achieved,” said Kurt Claeys (Open VLD), city councillor for city development.
The project is being developed by ION, based in Waregem in West Flanders, whose other projects cover that province as well as Leuven, Brussels and, most recently, the redevelopment of the iconic Boekentoren in Antwerp with port entrepreneur Fernand Huts.
The development, which was worked out under the previous city council under then-mayor Johan Vande Lanotte (Vooruit), but carried through by the incumbents, also includes a restoration of the historic character of the building in its port setting, based on archive photographs.
In the original discussions, various other ideas for a new purpose for the building were suggested, including a maritime museum. Instead, the city decided to bring the prostitution from its present location in the Hazegras quarter, a rundown area behind the main station, into one place.
For advice, the developers turned to Villa Tinto, a larger mega-brothel with 51 windows in the former shipping quarter of Antwerp. That complex was involved in a court case that ended last January in a 15-month sentence for one of the ‘concierges’ who had been extorting gifts and extra rent from the sex workers in exchange for better rooms.