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Brussels government to reassess European Quarter redevelopment plan

Picture shows a view from the road tunnel, exiting by the European institutions, on Rue de la Loi in Brussels (BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK)
06:26 01/07/2021

The Brussels government has announced that it will take a six-month "reflection period" to reassess its plans for the redevelopment of the Rue de la Loi and its surroundings.

The decision is based on the results of the public inquiry into the planned work conducted at the end of 2019 and the recent announcements of the European institutions on their real estate strategy.

The European Commission recently stated its ambition to reduce the office space it occupies in Brussels but does not plan to leave the Belgian capital, according to the European commissioner for budget and ddministration, Johannes Hahn.

In a recent meeting with Brussels minister-president Rudi Vervoort, Brussels state secretary for town planning Pascal Smet indicated that the European Commission intended to maintain a level of remote working in the future and planned to vacate a number of its satellite buildings in the coming years.

"The Covid crisis and the uncertainty it creates in terms of the future of the office real estate market, coupled with the recent announcements of the European institutions, only confirm the need for the Brussels Region to take the time to reflect and develop its territorial strategy for the district," a joint statement from the offices of Pascal Smet and Rudi Vervoort read.

“However, this time should not make us forget the clear objectives reaffirmed for the future of this important axis: more functional diversity, quality public spaces and special attention paid to the renovation of existing buildings."

Commissioner Hahn refused to say more about the location of future buildings, the size of which in many cases has been scaled down, but it emerged from discussions between the EU and Brussels authorities that the "historic" European Quarter will remain central to the Commission's buildings strategy.

The draft Master Development Plan, which among other things foresees the Rue de la Loi remaining as the central axis of the European district, is part of a strategy that the Brussels Region has been working on for several years.

Approved at its first reading by the government of the Brussels-Capital Region in May 2019, the plan proposes, in its strategic and regulatory aspects, a renewal of urban spaces in the city with a main focus on multifunctionality and public spaces through several different projects.

Among the proposals included were those concerning the restructuring of the European Commission's properties along the Rue de la Loi in an effort to reduce office pressure on the rest of the European Quarter; the introduction of housing, shops and public facilities to achieve a lively neighbourhood beyond office hours; and the enhancement of the road system around the Rue de la Loi axis and the development of new open spaces.

The draft of the plan was submitted to a public inquiry at the end of 2019. It immediately drew criticism and complaints, with the ensuing public debate forcing the regional government and the departments involved in drawing up the plan to reassess certain aspects of the proposed redevelopments.

Written by Nick Amies