Blue Gate Antwerp is an ambitious project covering an area of 64 hectares in the south of Antwerp, a brownfield site generally known as the former ‘Petroleum Zuid’. The site is to be divided into three zones: one for logistics located on the waterfront, one for production in the central part of the site, and one for research and development on the edge. A few days ago the project managers (City of Antwerp, ParticipatieMaatschappij Vlaanderen and Waterwegen en Zeekanaal) designated the consortium which is to be mandated with the cleansing, laying out and marketing of the zone. This is to be 'Blue O’pen’, a grouping made up of DEME, a maritime and environmental engineering group, and real estate One of the most attractive features of Blue Gate Antwerp is indeed probably its exceptional location. On the edge of a city which is centrally located in Flanders and Europe, close to the University and High School College, which opens up prospects of working together, Blue Gate Antwerp also offers the possibility of river transport as opposed to road, through this proximity to the Schelde. Fitting into the framework of the research and development zone is the ‘BlueChem’ initiative, an incubator and accelerator directed at open entrepreneurship for sustainable chemistry. A study has been carried out for this, in cooperation with Essenscia Vlaanderen (the federation of chemical, life sciences and plastics industries), the city of Antwerp, Blue Gate Antwerp NV, the non-profit-making association FISCH, Antwerp University, VITO, PMV, POM Antwerp and Deloitte. This construction will start soon and is set to open in 2018. The city of Antwerp is earmarking a specific investment of EUR 4 million in addition to the EUR 11.5 million budgeted for Blue Gate Antwerp.
Ecology as a mainspring for the future
The project envisages redevelopment of the site into a high-quality, water-related and ecologically effective business park. The originators of the project are the city of Antwerp and Flanders. For the construction of Blue Gate Antwerp the Flanders Venture Capital Company (PMV), Waterways & Sea Canal, AG Vespa and Enterprise & City Marketing/Employment and Economy are pooling their forces. The project is coming into being with the financial support of Efro, Strategic Projects within the framework of the Flanders Spatial Structure Plan and the Enterprise Agency.
Blue Gate Antwerp has also signed the heritage covenant with the Administration of Real Estate Heritage. This is because there are several buildings on the site that deserve continued preservation, especially on the edge of the site. The transport section does not pose any problems as regards connection to the major roads network, with the report only laying down as compulsory the adaptation of a number of local intersections.
Transition to a PPP
Now that Blue Gate Antwerp is being given the definitive green light, the switchover is being made to a Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
Guido Muelenaer, project manager of Blue Gate Antwerp: “We are using a competitive dialogue procedure to select the winning consortium – the first time this approach has been used in Flanders. The objective for the site’s development is clearly stated and the candidates are expected to make proposals as to how this should be fulfilled in concrete terms and in an optimal manner. The intention is to have the private partners act as majority shareholders, with the public partners posing as minority shareholders”.
On February 17th 2016, Blue Gate Antwerp closed its PPP procedure by mandating ‘Blue O'pen’, a consortium involving DEC, Dredging International and Bopro. The public and private partners are set to draw up an operational note covering the cleansing, raising and placing of the infrastructure. These works are set to be carried out in phases, the same as the development of the constructions themselves.
The cleansing works on the former oil site began on February 13th 2017. Once complete, the business park ‘Blue Gate Antwerp’ will be accessible at its northern end (Generaal Armstrongweg – south junction – R1) and its southern end (Schroeilaan / Herenpolderbrug).
The northern entrance will be the main entrance and gives direct access to the motorways via the modified south junction, currently being adapted.
Marketing well underway
The first building will be ‘BlueChem’, an incubator for start-ups in sustainable chemicals. This will be built at the lower end of the site, on a piece of raised ground. The incubator will extend to 3.200 m² and will be a mixture of flexible space for start-ups and laboratories for SME’s, large companies and research companies. The incubator will be fitted with the necessary equipment for the installation of Laboratories according to the so-called ‘plug-and-play’-model.
The BlueChem project involves an investment of around 13 million Euros, of which 8.68 million are for the building. A grant of some 3.4 million Euros is being provided by the European Fund for Regional development. The Flemish authorities are contributing around 868,000 Euros and the City of Antwerp is putting 4 million Euros into the project.
The new cluster for chemicals and synthetic materials (Catalisti) is to set up in BlueChem and work on business development. Substantial synergies should arise with the University of Antwerp. Opening is scheduled for the beginning of 2020.