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Metro 3: Palais du Midi shopkeepers to receive financial aid

16:16 15/06/2024

Shopkeepers in the Palais du Midi whose businesses will suffer due to construction on Brussels' new metro line 3 will receive financial support from the Brussels government, state secretary for economic transition Barbara Trachte has announced.

The general principles of the new decree, approved at first reading, were already agreed in March, Trachte added. Final approval is expected in the next legislature, when a new government is formed.

The massive Palais du Midi, which stretches 165 metres along Boulevard Maurice Lemonnier, is due to be partially dismantled to make way for construction works on metro line 3.

All existing occupants will have to move out. The government wants to "compensate traders as adequately as possible for the loss of income due to an unwanted closure, taking into account as far as possible the diversity of circumstances and of economic activities", it said.

The amount of money offered to shopkeepers will be based on the rental value, profitability and number of employees in each businesses.

Support and compensation measures have already been established for the traders near the Palais du Midi, in collaboration with the City of Brussels, Saint-Gilles commune and the regional authorities concerned – Bruxelles Economie Emploi,, public transport operator Stib and cleaning service Bruxelles Propreté.

These have been set in a "Toots Thielemans Agreement", named after the jazz musician who will have a new station named after him. Replacing the current pact, this will start in January 2025 and run until the end of 2029, for a total budget of €16.43 million.

This year, on the basis of the current agreement, additional support measures will be introduced for all the retailers concerned, for an annual budget estimated at around €2 million.

It looks increasingly unlikely that anyone will be able to save this beautiful and iconic building, which opened in 1880 as a covered market and now houses schools, shops and sports facilities.

It has turned instead into a construction site for Metro 3, which will connect Evere in the north to Forest in the south of Brussels in 20 minutes via 18 stops from Bordet to Albert.

Talks to classify this Brussels landmark designed by Belgian architect Wynand Janssens and later developed by fellow Belgians Maurice van Ysendyck and André and Jean Polak are on hold.

At the last regional government meeting, on 26 April, no decision was made on the huge industrial red brick complex that includes the many-roomed city sports centre at rue Roger van der Weyden.

In June 2023, the region said the interior had to be dismantled, leaving only the facade. This would be the only way to ensure the connection of Toots Thielemans metro station to Anneessens station near the Bourse.

The bid for classification was made from the Stalingrad-Lemonnier district residents, supported by heritage associations including ARAU.

Condemning the Palais’ demise as “urbicide”, it described the building as “an emblematic monument, not only on the scale of the district, but also of the Pentagon/Vijfhoek and the region”.

Its demolition would mean, “the destruction of the urban and social fabric of an entire neighbourhood… deprived of a large part of its commercial, educational and sporting activities,” the group said.

The Brussels region says it will welcome shopkeepers back in the building once works are finished. But it is hard to imagine they could survive at least 10 years away, with reconstruction unlikely to be completed before 2035, according to ARAU. New homes have already been found for the sports centre and the Ecole Francisco Ferrer.

At the beginning of 2024, the Palais du Midi was included among the 11 most threatened sites and monuments in Europe. This list was stabilised by Europa Nostra, a pan-European federation aiming to safeguard cultural and natural heritage.

Written by Liz Newmark