With a symbolic first shovel of dirt, Mayor Jean-Marie Dedecker and Flemish Minister of Public Works Lydia Peeters gave the official kick-off on Saturday for the work to start on the new Casino in Middelkerke. They did so together with the principal Debuild BV and contractors Furnibo and Democo. If all goes according to plan, the Casino could open its doors as early as the end of next year.
In January, the first preparatory work started at the Middelkerke dike. After securing the site and building a safety dune, the first construction phases are now underway. The work is being carried out by TM Casino Furnibo-Democo, a collaboration between contractors Furnibo from Veurne and Democo.
'We're currently preparing by excavating the construction pit and shoring work,' says Frederik Bijnens, Democo general manager. 'The project will have an underground garage so we will have to excavate fairly deep. Fortunately, we will install the shoring using a special technique called cutter soil mixing where we line the construction pit with a concrete wall made of a mixture of soil, water, and cement. This is how we will drastically limit the noise nuisance because we don't have to vibrate sheet piles into the ground and can immediately reuse the excavated soil.'
Prevention, control, and adjustment
This is not the first time that Furnibo and Democo have worked together. 'We've worked together for a few years now and our construction projects have always been a success. And we expect that won't change,' says Steven Maeyaert, Furnibo CEO. 'One thing we focus on strongly is to always prevent as much of a nuisance as possible for a neighbourhood. Which is why we drew up a comprehensive "reduced inconvenience" plan.'
For example, the contractors will use newer, quieter machinery and low-noise techniques wherever possible. 'We also work as much as possible within fixed hours during the week to respect the peace and quiet in the neighbourhood,' says Frederik Bijnens. 'We also pay great attention to keeping the surrounding area clean, making it easy to get around, safety, and good communication with the neighbourhood. Building without making noise or not causing an inconvenience is impossible, so we do everything we can to reduce it as much as possible.'
Lydia Peeters, Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works, looked on approvingly at the start of the work on Saturday. The services of the municipal government and Agency for Maritime Services and Coast (MDK) jointly drew up a plan to ensure there that the new Casino was adequately protected against sea flooding. 'Just like other coastal municipalities, we also need to take measures in Middelkerke to protect the coastline,' said Minister Peeters. 'Specifically, we decided to build a grass-covered dike in the residential zones, which will create a wave-dampening section within the central areas. This is a wider, lower dike you can walk on that has two retaining walls. In between is an additional promenade. At the Casino, which juts out from the coast, this wave-dampening section is now being extended. This is how we will extend the promenade between the casino and the beach and create additional protection for the casino.'
'Flywheel' for the future of Middelkerke
Mayor Jean-Marie Dedecker is looking forward to the opening of the Casino. 'I'm confident I'll be cutting the ribbon by the end of December 2023. The new casino will be so much more than a beautiful building. I'm convinced it'll be a sort of "flywheel" that will boost our local trade, tourist magnetism, and experiential value for residents and second-home owners. Thanks to the casino and other key projects, such as the Westende seawall, Middelkerke is truly "next level".'