ULI Advisory Services Panel Report – Brussels, Belgium

The European Quarter of Brussels has been evolving for almost 50 years. With the announcement that strategic European Union (EU) offices would be placed in Brussels came changes—some dramatic—to the Maelbeek area of the city. Quiet residential neighbourhoods were transformed into large office complexes. Infrastructure needed to support thousands of office workers was put in place. A large influx of workers from all over Europe and the world came to this once upscale area of the city.

Although the prestige of having the EU offices locate in the city was welcome, the changes to the urban fabric of the Maelbeek area were not always in the city’s best interest. Areas of the city became “ghost towns” at night after the office workers went home. Security concerns resulted in road closures and loss of a friendly pedestrian feel. Intimate gathering places were lost.

Several residential projects are now planned for the area in the hopes of bringing people back to this part of the city; however a real—and, in the panel’s opinion, deserved—concern exists that the other services necessary to support the residential community will not be there and the area will not be transformed.

The European Quarter Fund asked ULI, through its Advisory Services Programme, to recommend ways to encourage and promote a range of uses, especially retail, along the Chaussée d’Etterbeek, the main thoroughfare through the area, and to provide insights on how to better plan the public space in the area. These activities are hoped to transform the European Quarter from a mix of uses that do not complement each other into a community that serves the EU, the city, and most importantly, the residents of Brussels. The panel
came up with a strategy for creating a vibrant community in the European Quarter. Specifically, the panel was asked to provide input for managing the retail functions of the real estate development along the Chaussee d’Etterbeek between the Square Marie-Louise and the Place Jourdan.

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