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'Champs-Elysées of Brussels' project moves closer to approval
In what could be one of the most impressive urban regeneration projects Brussels has ever seen, the Avenue de la Toison d'Or and the Boulevard de Waterloo in the upper part of the city centre will be redeveloped to form what some are calling ‘the Champs-Elysées Brussels’.
The redevelopment project, presented before the regional elections in 2019, is now entering a new phase, that of the public inquiry which starts this Wednesday, 27 January. The consultation will last for a period of one month.
The project will see a radical transformation of the area stretching from the Porte de Namur to Avenue Louise. This will include wider pavements, bike lanes, reduced traffic, and an end to nearly all surface parking areas.
Pedestrians will be able to stroll on expansive pavements, both on the consumer side (Toison d'Or) and on the luxury shopping side (Boulevard de Waterloo) without the seemingly endless rows of parked cars obstructing their views and passage.
The new tree-lined, two-coloured granite promenades will also play host to more benches, gardens, public art and food kiosks. The Q8 petrol station, one of the few along the inner ring, will also disappear.
Two years ago, former mobility and public works minister Pascal Smet lauded the quality of the project, devised by the Bruno Fortier workshop group in cooperation with Polo architects, Arcadis and CityTools. In 2019, just before the regional election, the permit application was filed.
However, the project encountered some opposition from local residents and traders who supported an alternative proposal from architect Pierre Lallemand, an ambitious 4,000m² wood and glass bubble which would feature a garden built over three floors as well as shops and cultural spaces. Despite being supported by Beci (Brussels Chamber of Commerce) and Interparking, the proposal met with problems over permits and its file remains incomplete.
This leaves the €10 million ‘Champs-Elysées Brussels’ project as the only one at the final stage. But obstacles remain in the form of the mayors of the City of Brussels, Philippe Close, and Ixelles Christos Doulkeridis, who have concerns over the ambitions of the Brussels-Capital Region. With the Porte de Namur in a neglected state, a lack of green space in the upper city and an overall excess of car traffic, the two mayors want the area as a whole to be addressed, not just the main boulevards.
With the coronavirus pandemic and its associated restrictions ongoing, no date as yet has been set for the consultation committee to meet once the public have had their say.
The current health crisis will also affect the number of opponents turning up to a hearing to voice their concerns. "In the event of a petition, presented by a neighbourhood committee or another type of association, the number of people admitted to the consultation committee will be limited to just two per petition, neighbourhood committee or association," the City of Brussels has said.