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EU Quarter Brussels: New branding campaign for Schuman district aims to reverse grey image
Brussels is on a mission to rebrand the EU district and reverse its dull image as a neighbourhood filled with civil servants and zero nightlife.
The region’s new strategy aims to create a 24/7 vibrant and multicultural community that will boost visitors to the area.
Under the slogan ‘Still alive after five’, the branding campaign is promoting the district’s shops, restaurants and cultural activities, with long-term plans to make the area more residential.
The rebrand has been developed by public and private partners, including neighborhood committees. It cost €30,000 as part of a €150,000 campaign.
The effect of Covid on the EU quarter was a wake-up call. Ans Persoons, Brussels secretary of state for urbanism & heritage, told The Bulletin: “It was awful during lockdown as it was too dependent on office workers and it’s still suffering.”
If the pandemic highlighted a “vulnerable neighbourhood”, the European Commission’s planned sale of office buildings is an opportunity to convert them into housing, said Persoons. “If we create more housing in the neigbourhood, it’ll be livelier at weekends.”
Equally essential for the minister is rethinking public space in the area dominated by EU institutional buildings. “It’s a very car-orientated neighbourhood; if we work through the public space angle, we could make a lot of improvements so that it becomes a place where people meet,” she said.
The consortium behind the campaign wants to reconsider the area’s extensive underground parking space, make pavements wider, increase cycling infrastructure and plant more trees.
These plans for making the EU quarter more people-friendly tie in with the refurbishment project for the Schuman roundabout, which received final approval earlier this month. It also links to the Cinquantenaire 2030 project that’s overhauling Cinquantenaire Park and the museum quarter for Belgium’s bicentenary celebrations.
To mark Belgium’s presidency of the European Council from 1 January, a public artwork is planned on the esplanade in Schuman. “There needs to be many more cultural events linked to the presidencies to give the European identity another feel than as a decision-making process,” said Persoons.
She’s hoping that the branding, with its multicoloured logo, is a good start to promoting the multicultural identity of the neighbourhood. “It has a unique atmosphere with so many languages spoken and restaurants offering different cuisines.”
But it needed to be a 24/7 neighbourhood, added Persoons. “If we can manage all the challenges, the brand and the EU quarter will be unique not only in Brussels and Belgium but around the world.”
While hoping people will embrace the brand and use it as a visible common and shared identity, she pointed out that it also requires people “to invest in it”.
Brussels finance and budget minister Sven Gatz paid tribute to the international community’s commitment to the city. “In the last 10 years we have seen lots of Europeans want to be Brusseleers as well and that goes with the changes in the neighbourhood.”
He said it was it was the right time to give it a new identity. “It’s not just a logo, it’s the start of a long story.”
Patrick Bontinck, general director of visit.brussels, underlined that the European district represented 12 to 20% of the Brussels economy.
Although it’s one of the most visited places in the capital, it was necessary to change the image of the quarter for Belgian people as well as tourists, he said.
The branding material, consisting of different images and hues, will be displayed by shops, restaurants, businesses and organisations. The logo can be adapted by adding different visual elements.
A new site, www.europeanquarter.brussels, has also been created for residents and visitors.