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Etterbeek's administration moves to new, ultra-modern commune building

09:55 15/03/2021

The administration of the Brussels municipality of Etterbeek will finally move into a brand new, energy efficient commune building this week, with all departments expected to be up and running in the ultra-modern headquarters by 22 March.

The new building, which replaces one of the oldest and – energy-intensive – town halls in the capital, has been built on the site of the former hospital of Etterbeek-Ixelles, in the Square Docteur Jean Joly. Staff of the municipal administration will move from the old commune on Avenue d'Auderghem and will be joined at the new address by colleagues from the ‎Public Social Action Centre (CPAS)‎, and the local police.

The new five-storey building has been designed with energy efficiency, space and natural light in mind, with numerous features installed to reduce its environmental impact. It has been a long road, the commune’s mayor Vincent De Wolf admitted, with many oppositions and obstacles to overcome since it was first planned in 2006 but the result is breath-taking, he said.

“The result is out of the ordinary, it's a modern building," the delighted De Wolf told reporters. "At the time of its planning, the opposition claimed that the pharaoh just wanted his pyramid, that the building was a chimera that would never see the light of day. Now I think everyone can see that it's successful."

Jaspers-Eyers Architects, the company behind the new commune, said that it was their intention to make a space that was welcoming to everyone as well as being an important administrative hub. "We wanted a hall that was both majestic and an agora for the citizens," a grand central public space much like those in ancient Greece, the architects said in a statement.

The commune will house four main sections of the administration regarding citizens’ needs: population, civil state, a foreigners' service and parking. The administration has also made a promise that no-one will wait longer than 15 minutes before being seen by a member of staff at one of the new soundproof counters. In the new building, the staff will come to the citizens. "Before, people would walk through all the corridors to find the officials. From now on, it is the public servants who will go to the public," said De Wolf.

The staff will work in noise-reduced open-plan offices with isolated areas for private meetings. Even the council chamber, named after former municipal secretary Christian Debaty, will serve a dual purpose, being both a space for the elected officials when needed and an area for the public when not in use. “This is like the United Nations,” laughed De Wolf. "It is both the municipal council chamber but also a meeting place for the inhabitants."

The new commune site, covering some 16,000m², has cost around €50 million with VAT, including an extra €1 million for added security due to the housing of the police. This included making doors and windows bulletproof and expanding the cell space to cater for the police zone which covers Etterbeek, Woluwe Saint Lambert and Woluwe Saint Pierre.

The total sum will be paid by the municipality itself, and not from subsidies, according to Vincent De Wolf. "The municipality pays for itself, we don't have any subsidies," says the mayor. "We own the land and therefore finance it through the sale of apartments."

The commune site includes 69 apartments which have already been sold on the Rue Beckers side along with a further 37 apartments on the Square side. A further 120 apartments are to be built at the rear of the commune site.

In total, the sale of apartments, rents and the redevelopment of the old commune building on Avenue d'Auderghem should largely cover the costs. There has even been talk of the commune coming out of the deal with a €10 million profit as some of the apartments in the current plan were not included when the architects first revealed the project and budget. "The commune will definitely be out of the red and I will have done my job," assured De Wolf.

Photo courtesy BAEB

Written by Nick Amies