De Placemakers sees a future for Backbone on the Travertijnstraat. This became apparent on Saturday afternoon during a meeting in ‘t Vinkhuys. Peter Loef is one of the entrepreneurs in Backbone, and he was amazed.
Hi Peter! A lot has been written and said about Backbone in the past year. How are you currently?
“It’s going well in itself. However, concerns are growing. As it seems now it will stop in this building on December 31st. Then the lease ends. The future is uncertain. And there’s a lot of talk about that. You also see the stress and panic among the entrepreneurs. They now have an affordable space where they can set up their business. But what will happen next? Can they go on and on after December 31? And where? Backbone is a breeding ground where beautiful things arise, where beautiful things happen. That should never go away.”
Backbone is located at Travertijnstraat 12, a former school building. It has been said that it will be demolished to build houses…
“I can tell you that yesterday afternoon was a big surprise. Because indeed, what you are describing is also the story we always heard. De Placemakers has been hired by the municipality of Groningen to make a plan for this area. What should be done with it? Residents have been able to submit plans, but the people from De Placemakers have also looked at it themselves. Yesterday during a meeting in ‘t Vinkhuys it became clear that they think it is very important that people can live and work in the new district. That something must arise where people can meet, but which can also serve as a connection. In other words, what we have in Trav 12 should actually be continued.”
What exactly does that mean?
“In the eyes of De Placemakers, there must be a future-proof neighborhood, where there is space and space for the neighbourhood. It must be possible to work, it must be possible to meet, but it must also be possible to organize things for the district. That’s exactly what we do. We received the advice from De Placemakers to make our concept future-proof. And that the building we are in can last for years to come.”
Now I have heard the retired alderman Roeland van der Schaaf (PvdA) say that the building is unsafe…
“Correct. But we have always questioned those words. It is clear that something has to be done about the building. There is still single glass in it. That must be replaced. It contains asbestos. That must be removed. The piping must be replaced. And the outside really needs to be refurbished. But those are things that can be financed and realised. And such a meeting also makes you think, doesn’t it? You said we’re in an old school building. For example, the entire computer network is still there. If you remove that, you may be able to earn money with it so that you can already start certain activities. We really have to think in terms of opportunities, how we can keep our pants up ourselves. Actually, the concept for the RKZ complex would be ideal. There, people can take care of themselves, but a housing association will sign for the maintenance of the building.”
What is the value of the judgment of De Placemakers…
“We do not know that. But this is a very nice boost. The Placemakers have been hired by the municipality of Groningen to make a plan for the Travertijnstraat. So yes, there are houses. But if they say so clearly that a concept such as Backbone fits in perfectly with the plan, then I expect that it will simply be preserved in the presentation, and that the municipality will also have to do something with it. The municipality cannot ignore this.”
Until now we have often talked about the Travertijnstraat 12. But there is also a Travertijnstraat 6 …
“That is the building that used to house the Alfa College. Very nice things are happening there too. Just like in our building, this is a breeding ground where entrepreneurs can start a business at a low price. For example, there is a very large workshop there where new things are made from old materials. Very nice. And those things happen to us too. Gea’s Weggevenwinkel, for example, has become big with us. The Northerners have been here for a while. The Free Café is still here. The festivals of tomorrow are conceived here, the companies that everyone will be talking about next week will see the light here.”
Meanwhile, the end of the year is approaching. Are you going to wait it out?
“No. What we heard yesterday was a nice boost. But we have to move on. We all know about the real estate market. There are no affordable spaces. And that is why we must cherish and preserve Trav 6 and 12. We really have to fight for that. And the buildings can easily be part of a new neighbourhood. In fact, it can be a reinforcing factor. And that is why we will be making a lot of noise in the near future. We also want to seek contact with Groningen politicians.”