Local Goal Getter Chris Meys from neighborhood network Limmel

This week’s Local Goal Getter is Chris Meys. For the past five and a half years, Chris has held the position of chairman of the Limmel neighborhood network as a volunteer. Together with the neighborhood, Chris fights to make Limmel a sustainable exemplary quarter for the Netherlands.

Limmel is located northeast of Maastricht, barely eight minutes by bike from the station and half an hour’s walk from the market. In the interview with Anouk Willems we already saw a piece of sustainable innovation in the neighborhood – the IKC De Geluksvogel. In addition, a fully energy-neutral shopping center and forty-two newly-built homes are currently under construction. And the renovated roofs of the rental homes on the Balijeweg were the first homes in South Limburg with complete solar panel roofs. 

The Hotel Management School is also located in Limmel, which recently delivered an energy-neutral new campus. Behind the Hotelschool there is a new, beautiful park which is publicly accessible. Chateau Bethlehem and Jerusalem are two beautiful historic sites with a unique appearance in this Maastricht residential area. In addition, there are several tourist routes through Limmel, such as the Via Belgica that goes from Boulogne sur Mer via Maastricht through Meerssen and Valkenburg to Cologne.

Wasteland

However, the charm of Limmel is overshadowed by a vacant old industrial area right next to the Maas. The factories have been demolished, except for the chimney of the old zinc-white factory that has been preserved as a monument. Due to past industrial activity, the soil has been polluted and therefore this area of urban land lays empty except for a few older houses along the Borgharenweg. The area is surrounded by fences with two large banners: The first is from Naga Solar, a company that builds solar parks worldwide – the owner of the area. The second banner is from the Limmel neighborhood network with their message: “Of course líving in Limmel at the Maas!”

Neighborhood network

Chris Meys’ story is testimony to the fact that he has a vital role in the future of this area. On behalf of the neighborhood network, Chris and his fellow board members are committed to transforming the site into a beautiful, sustainable and diverse residential area where the citizen is central. He explains that an expansion of Limmel is certainly necessary: only twenty-five percent of the neighborhood consists of owner-occupied homes, one in three of which are student houses. Therefore, there is a great shortage of senior and starter homes as well as owner-occupied apartments. When the district is expanded, it will mean more residents and thus more children for the school and customers for the future shops. In this way, the level of facilities can be maintained. Because of Chris’s job at the municipality of Roermond as coordinator of historic preservation and archeology, he has access to expertise that he can put to good use in this plan.

Future plan for and by the neighborhood 

One of Chris’s success factors is that he attaches great importance to the participation of all parties involved in the realization of his ideas. (SDG # 17) The neighborhood network is made up of various cooperation partners, ranging from the school management of De Geluksvogel to the management of the hotel school and the members of the student association Amphitryon, from the local small entrepreneurs to the owners of the site and the entire citizen population. All parties were invited to brainstorm together about the basic needs of the new neighborhood plan. This brainstorming session showed that there was unanimous agreement that the development of this wasteland could really make a difference for the entire neighborhood.

Sustainable goals

Chris explains that numerous Sustainable Development Goals have been integrated in the drawing up of the plan. For example, it was important that the busy road Willem Alexanderweg, where every 24 hours 15,000 vehicles are passing including 750 trucks, would be diverted. This will promote clean air and reduce noise pollution. A nice extra will be a pleasant foot and bicycle connection from Limmel to the city centre. All of this will benefit general health and well-being (SDG#3). Because of the diversion, there will also be a direct connection to the Maas. In turn, an open view on this beautiful river will increase the attractiveness of the neighbourhood. This would attract a more diverse population group and thereby reduce inequalities (SDG#10). For example, young families with children who can firstly increase and secondly diversify the school population of the local school would be attracted to the area. (SDG#4). Finally, Chris points out that the plan is to equip the roofs of the houses with solar panels, as shown on the banner, in order to achieve the goal of affordable and sustainable energy. (SDG#7).

Elaboration of the future plan

All these desiderata and objectives of the neighbourhood network were elaborated in a plan that the neighbourhood network submitted to the municipality of Maastricht. After intensive consultation, the latter has taken the step to hire an external urban planner to further develop this plan. The area will be roughly divided into 3 parts, Chris explains. In the first part near the Noorderbrug, a green parking building is planned, which also functions as a sound barrier. A residential area with, among other things, houses with gardens will be the central zone and also immediately meets the growing demand for housing. In the third part, space is provided for houses near the monumental chimney on the Maas and some economic activity in the lightest form. 

Wish

This entire initiative of the redevelopment of Limmel is a wonderful example of how citizens can take matters into their own hands. With the support of knowledgeable people and the driving force of volunteers such as Chris, you realise a nice connection between citizens, companies and the city in a sustainable context. The great wish of our Local Goal Getter is that the new beautiful residential area at this beautiful location will be ready in five years. That would be an amazing result of his many years of commitment.

Chris Meys is happy to recommend Bo Croonen as our next Local Goal Getter. Bo is chairman of the student association of the Hotelschool called Amphitryon, the oldest and largest student association in Maastricht. Amphitryon is committed to social causes.

Iact4Maastricht_Chris Meys

Text: Jennifer Timmermans & Anna Hermans

Photos: Séverine Louf

Editing and Design: Linda Vecvagare & Lars Wingerath