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Bourse renovation is four times over budget

14:30 01/07/2023

The renovation of Brussels' Bourse building, which will include the long-awaited Belgian Beer World attraction, will end up costing €83 million – four times more than the initial budget of nearly €20 million in 2012 when the project was first announced.

The cost of the works shot up to €34 million in 2019, €60 million in 2021 and €83 million today, Brussels mayor Philippe Close revealed in answer to a written question by city councillor David Weytsman.

But Close is convinced that this is money well spent for the building. He emphasised that the Bourse would be much more than just a beer museum, which will take up a third of the 12,000m² space.

When it finally opens in September, the Bourse will also welcome temporary exhibitions, meeting rooms, a restaurant and a rooftop sky bar and its central gallery would link the Place de la Bourse to the Rue du Midi.

“The money is more than planned because we wanted to take account of all the details. A remarkable building is worth the investment. We must take care of our remarkable buildings,” he said of the monument constructed by architect Léon-Pierre Sluys, dating from 1869.

“This gem is known to all Belgians. But many Belgians have never had the chance to visit it,” he said.

“Yes, we have not skimped on the measures to renovate the building. But the increased costs are due notably to the energy crisis and the price hike of materials.

"Moreover, I want to insist that the plan brings together many levels of power: regional, federal, European, the city and private businesses. It is exceptional.

“It is all these aspects that will make the Bourse even more magnificent,” Close continued.

"People already stop in front of the building and admire the exterior renovation. When they enter the building, they will understand that all this money has been well invested. I am very proud of this, and very proud for the city centre.

“Renovating the Bourse, it’s something important. We must stop aiming too low in Belgium. We have the right to defend our heritage. We have an incredible heritage.

"The Bourse was near enough left abandoned. It was not visited. Soon, it will be one of the centrepieces of the city centre. We have finally invested what is needed for Brussels.”

The mayor added that Brussels would reap significant economic benefits from the beer museum. As well as its €900,000 per year rent, it is expected to attract some 350,000 visitors a year including many foreign tourists.

Belgium’s beer sector, one of the most well-known in the world, would also be rewarded, he said – with more than 100 breweries taking part in the project.

Not everyone is convinced that the project merited its expense. Opposition councillor Geoffroy Coomans de Brachene said renovation was necessary, but it should have been more in the region €30 to €35 million, not this “staggering sum”.

“It is insolent and indecent for the people of Brussels, for a project into which we continue to put money," he said.

"We are worried about the final bill. There are subsidies. But what subsidies are we talking about, when we know that €13 million has come from the post-Covid recovery plan which should have been donated to the city centre shop owners who have suffered from the crisis?

"I do not understand this budgetary slippage, this mismanagement, and that this project is taking far too much to the detriment of other projects and other neighbourhoods that no longer receive anything."

Written by Liz Newmark