While city improvements fail to materialize, property owners lose income

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By Tommaso Lecca and Cătălin Radu

Real estate owners from the former red light district A-kwartier of Groningen are furious with the mayor’s office after losing tens of thousands of euros in rent. Buildings that generated important revenue each month have been empty since 1 January, when the Groningen administration banned prostitution from the neighbourhood.

Nine months later, uncertainty about the future of the A-kwartier has owners literally cursing at the town officials. “I used to get almost 3,000 euro every month for just one room. Now we can’t do anything with the rooms!”, said Snejana Boricic, one of the angry house owners from the A-kwartier. “And the administration is just lying to us, saying that we will get a nice neighbourhood, but they’ve been saying this since 2009 and the only change is that we now can’t rent the buildings”.

The local administration has attractive plans for this central, historical neighbourhood, such as transforming the former sex trade rooms into spaces for small businesses and artists. A project that would enhance the beauty of the area, according to the municipality. What the local officials don’t have is an actual date when this is to happen.

“In a few years, the neighbourhood could transform into something beautiful, and the owners will benefit more from that. If it is possible to make the A-kwartier a nice place, they will be making more money”, explained Eddy Beuker, spokesperson for the Groningen municipality. However, the official admitted that the time range of this process is unknown. “We don’t know yet when this will be over. Currently, there is a bit of a standstill and we are having talks with the neighborhood on the chances of development”, Mr. Beuker added.

Although real estate owners and some local businesses, such as bars, cafés and sex related shops only experienced the downside of the red light district relocation, there is also a bright side. None of the people actually living in the A-kwartier, that The Spoke talked to, had a problem with no longer having to step out of their homes into a street filled with drunk, loud men, drug dealers and often violent episodes.

As much as the local administration would like for this to be the case, the improvement of the social environment and the neighbourhood’s reputation did not yet lead to an economic rebirth. As long as owners are prevented, by not being granted permits, to rent out the available spaces, no income is generated. And that includes the potential revenue from the desired small businesses and local artists.

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