A future creative hotspot
The former Winterslag coal-mining site has been transformed from a brownfield into a place where creative economic activities can thrive, putting the city of Genk on the path towards becoming a knowledge-based economy. C-Mine, as the project and the site are known, aspires to become an internationally known centre of art, recreation, tourism and entrepreneurship, notably in the creative economy/gaming industry.
“Already nearly 500 000 people are visiting C-Mine every year for the cinema, restaurants, heritage centre and tourist attractions.”
Wim Dries, Mayor of Genk
Due to be completed in 2011, C-Mine is already home to the Media and Design Academy, where 500 students are currently enrolled in Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes; a Euroscoop 10-screen cinema multiplex; and four creative SMEs based in the Design Innovation Laboratory. A new cultural centre will open in September 2010 with two large theatres, an exhibition hall and meeting rooms. Various tourist attractions including an underground ‘experience centre’ in the air shaft of the former mine, and a Centre for Creative Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship, are to open in 2011.
From industry to innovation
Through C-Mine, the industrial city of Genk aims to re-invent itself as an entrepreneurial city. Located near Hasselt, the 64 000-population town is perhaps best known for the large Ford Motor Co. automobile plant and the coal mines that had all shut down by the late 1980s, including Winterslag and Waterschei. Supported by the Flemish regional government, city authorities see a future in creative industries, like educational video and computer games.
Two-thirds of C-Mine’s main building are reserved for creative-economy projects and services, with the idea of encouraging collaboration among individuals and organisations. In a separate wing, the remaining space will house a Design Innovation incubator for start-up companies, to be guided by a manager with technical and commercial skills.
A network of alliances
Studies show that creative economy and gaming are strong growth sectors worldwide, signifying huge potential for the Flemish economy. After purchasing the brownfield site in 2001, the City of Genk and the Flemish government set out to exploit that potential with C-Mine.
The project is anchored by alliances with multiple partners including the Media and Design Academy and various other universities and research institutes; the Flanders InShape – Flemish Competence Centre for Product Development and Industrial Design; and Design Platform Limburg, a local group that encourages cooperation among designers, entrepreneurs and research institutes. There are also efforts to forge partnerships with other initiatives in Flanders.
The project is expected to have lasting impact on the city and the region in terms of employment, innovation and tourism.