Robust Rescue Plan for the Iconic Thermae Palace Ostend is in Place

Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Robust Rescue Plan for the Iconic Thermae Palace Ostend is in Place

Following nearly four years of intense negotiations, the city of Ostend, together with Participatiemaatschappij Vlaanderen (PMV) and Restotel NV, has succeeded in rescuing the iconic Thermae Palace Hotel and the Royal Galleries (Koninklijke Gaanderijen) from collapse. In all, around EUR 134 million will be invested, with more than half of this being private funds. The partners expect to formally sign the cooperation agreement by the end of the year, following approval by the relevant decision-making bodies.

The Thermae Palace Complex is in a dreadful state today. Not only is it painful to see this unique building literally crumbling and peeling, structurally there are lots of problems involving the roof, the facades and even the foundations. The Galleries have actually been propped up for more than six years. Waiting any longer to take action really is not an option.

The restoration is estimated today at EUR 94 million. A sizeable sum of money that the government alone cannot cough up. The more than 12 million already promised by the Flemish government is very welcome. However, it’s pretty clear that this will not be enough. That’s why the city of Ostend has formed a strong consortium with PMV and the current tenant, the Vanmoerkerke family’s company Restotel, who together have one goal in mind: to save Thermae Palace.

A wholesale restoration of the complex will not be enough. It will also be essential that the complex is used sustainably after restoration if the monument is to be preserved. At present, only 30% of the complex is used. The rest has been languishing empty for years. That’s why there is now a plan on the table to fill the entire complex, while at the same time making the monument far more accessible to the general public.

After the renovation, the Thermae Palace will also house a high-quality hotel with between 90 and 125 rooms, at least half of which will have a sea view, a breakfast area and restaurant, various banqueting rooms, as well as a number of meeting rooms. In addition to the hotel, there will also be another spacious Wellness centre including a sauna, hammam, several baths and a relaxation area.

By also relocating Mu.ZEE to the Thermae Palace, the museum will finally receive the prime location it truly deserves. In this way, the consortium will also open up the unique building to a much wider audience. And that is also a very conscious decision. Mu.ZEE's relocation to the renovated Thermae Palace will enrich both institutions, bringing art closer to the public in a historically meaningful context. This move will make Mu.ZEE a central element in the building’s cultural revival, increase its visibility and strengthen its audience reach. The integration of the museum within Thermae Palace will create a lively meeting place that will bring culture and community together in the heart of Ostend.

A residential programme beyond the contours of the protected monument is also being considered to ensure the project’s financial feasibility. Exploratory studies in this regard are being carried out by renowned architectural firm Robbrecht and Daem, with input from stakeholders through a participation process led by SOLV, a prop-tech company founded by Alexander D’Hooghe to provide assistance with complex cases. Adequate underground parking facilities will be provided for all these functions. An economically feasible scenario is far from a given for this complex. That’s why the partners decided to set up a public-private project company involving PMV, the city of Ostend and Restotel NV. This project company will be responsible for the successful redevelopment of the complex, so that a new operating agreement can be concluded with Restotel NV.

This way, Thermae Palace and the Royal Galleries will be restored to their former glory, will finally have the sustainable future they deserve, and the people of Ostend will regain their pride.

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Image of the Day

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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