A Belgian nonprofit wanted to turn an abandoned hangar in the city of Ostend into a maritime museum—but city officials have decided on an entirely different use for the site instead. A "mega-brothel" is more what they have in mind, in what they say is an effort to help keep the municipality's sex workers safe, per the Guardian. Under this new initiative, Ostend's red-light district (prostitution is legal in Belgium) will be emptied out and all sex workers will be moved to the "Hangar d'Amour" ("Hangar of Love"), which will also boast a brewery, bar, information desk, and police outpost once renovations are done. Johan Vande Lanotte, Ostend's mayor, says the new location will ultimately offer the sex workers better working conditions and more security. "The ladies will enter into a rental contract directly with the owner, as a result of which intermediaries will be excluded," he notes.
And that could be an important factor in a country the Evening Standard notes still has a black mark from the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime, which lists nations rife with sex trafficking. Out of the 26,000 estimated sex workers in Belgium, about 80% of them are believed to be victims of trafficking or other forms of exploitation, authorities say. The brothel is currently set for a 2020 opening, the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper reports, via Newsweek, and the company in charge of it (which also runs another brothel in Antwerp) will pony up about $65,000 a month to rent the space. One aspect of the hangar that won't change, due to its protected architectural status, is its exterior; only the inside will eventually get an overhaul. As for the group that wanted the space to be used for a maritime museum: It's calling the city's scheme "madness." (Read more Belgium stories.)