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District committees call for a halt to European Quarter's building 'frenzy'

The Charlemagne building in the European quarter of Schuman in Brussels  (BELGA PHOTO HERWIG VERGULT)
10:55 04/11/2020

Several district committees in Brussels have signed a letter to state secretary for urban planning Pascal Smet asking for an end to the office building 'frenzy' in the European quarter and to develop a more sustainable construction policy.

In cooperation with city associations Arau, Bral and IEB, the committees of the Jourdan, Leopold Quarter and Brussels North-East neighbourhoods have set up the Brussels Europe Coordination group to stop property developers saturating the European quarter with new buildings, like the planned office towers on Rue de la Loi, which could remain vacant. "Due to the corona crisis, more and more offices will be empty", the neighbourhood associations state in the letter.

The committees maintain that this current building frenzy is not in line with the new reality created by the coronavirus pandemic. "Since the beginning of the current crisis, companies in Brussels have been moving away from their offices,” the letter continues. “Projects developed before the pandemic no longer meet current labour standards as teleworking gains popularity."

According to the Brussels Europe Coordination group, the way people work will never be the same again. Even when life returns to a semblance of normality, many have realised the positive effects of teleworking on mobility, air quality and quality of life, meaning that large groups of people working in offices together could be a thing of the past. "A return to the way of working before the corona pandemic seems impossible,” the committees state. “The master plan for the development (of the European Quarter) is completely obsolete."

The district committees have asked the state secretary to develop a different, more sustainable philosophy. "Buildings are too quickly considered obsolete,” the group’s statement said. “This policy of demolition and reconstruction is detrimental to the environment.” The life of offices should be considered more carefully. "The distribution of urban planning permits based on a production logic is outdated," the group concludes.

Written by Nick Amies