Number 02 - May 2011 

Realty: 2011 set to fly high
Realty, the real estate fair held at Tour & Taxis in Brussels every year, opens next week. This is an ideal opportunity both for doing business and for networking in the real estate sector, as over 100 exhibitors will be present, and some 3,500 visitors are expected. Once again this year, organisors Artexis are putting great efforts into attracting foreign investors. Alongside the exhibitors –which include not just major players from within the industry, but also cities and regions (Brussels, Antwerp, Namur…) wishing to promote their development activities – there is a full conference programme. The Urban Land Institute (ULI), for example, has invited Brussels Region Minister Christos Doulkeridis, a renowned advocate of the adequate provision of social housing, to take part in a debate on this hot subject. A lunch is being organised by professional organisation UPSI-BVS on a topic much in the news over recent times: urban densification. Architects Art&Build have invited Jacques Attali to talk about the European city with the tantalising title ‘A Brief History of the Future: The European City’. The relationship between architect, developer and end-user will be explored, as will public-private partnerships, budgeting, sustainability, retail… the list of conference events is comprehensive to say the least.





Kam Gebouw: Régie opts for mobility solution in Bruges
The Federal Government has  inaugurated  new offices in the Kam Gebouw alongside Bruges station. There is a growing trend to locate office buildings close to public transport facilities, and this operation, both through the developer and the occupant, is a further example of the theory being put into practice. The building totals 41,000 m², of which the Régie des Bâtiments (State Buildings Agency) has leased around 17,500 m² for the Federal Finance Department, for a total annual rent in excess of 2.5 million Euros, on a 27 year lease.

Walloon Government launches
5 eco-parks tests

Within the framework of the Marshall plan, the Walloon government has decided to launch 5 eco-business park pilot studies. The challenge is to improve their economic and social performance and to minimise their impact on the environment. The project aims to develop best practices within this domain in business parks by promoting the concept of industrial ecology. The first eco-parks selected are Tetre/St.Ghislain, Chimay Baileux, Liège Science Park, Ecopole at Farciennes-Aiseau Presles and Hermalle sous Huy/Engis. 

A mixed start to the year for the Brussels office market
Following an encouraging 2010, take-up in the Brussels office market was relatively unimpressive in the first quarter of 2011. At only 73,000 m², the total take-up stood at only around half of the quarterly average. Taking a look at the various sub-markets, it can be seen that the central districts, accounted for half of the total take-up, some 36,000 m². This performance was helped by a significant number of small transactions in the European district, keeping this particular zone just above its quarterly average, at 15,000 m².

Relocation and regrouping : GDF Suez seizes the opportunity
Taking advantage of an unscheduled opportunity, the energy group has found in Brussels North District the ideal location for its needs in terms of regrouping. The ‘GDF Suez Tower’ project will be undertaken in two phases, one of which is totally finished, and the other of which has barely got its head above ground.The birth of the GDF Suez Tower project arises from a chain of events allied to movements within the market and to the reaction of the various players in turning these unforeseen events into advantages for all concerned.

Brussels Law Courts rehabilitation
The historic Brussels Law Courts are set to be given a new lease of life. This monumental building has been the subject of an international ideas contest. Organised by the Belgium’s state buildings agency and the Public Finance Service, the competition, called ‘Brussels Courthouse, Imagine the Future!’,  asked contestants to do just that for the building under two different scenarios.The first of these scenarios supposes that the building partially retains its original function as a law court. In the second category,  the building would no longer have any legal function.

A business centre in Liège
Congress Hall

The RTBF  inaugurates last week its new facilities in the ‘Media Rives’ complex in Liège. This is a 16,400 m² development attached to Médiacité and a stone’s throw from the ‘Image Pole’. This is the largest investment ever made by the RTBF in the French Community, and at 1,200 m² the largest studio in the Community. In moving to these premises the RTBF is leaving the dilapidated Congress Hall building, in which it occupied five floors. So what is to become of this 1958 building and its thousands of square metres? 

Semi-industrial markets in better health
Demand for semi-industrial space increased in 2010, compared to 2009, with signs of a recovery in the logistics segment – substantially down year on year – towards  the end of 2010. Vacancy remained at around 6% overall, relatively low but still above the 4% of the pre-crisis period. In figures, overall take-up was 717,000 m², with around 450,000 m² of this in semi-industrial and 265,000 m² in logistics. Where semi-industrial space is concerned, this represents an increase of 7% over the previous year.

Major developments south of Antwerp
Located at Willebroek Noord, alongside the A12 motorway, the whole of the development site extends to 48 hectares, making it the largest brownfield site in Flanders. The major logistics development is ‘Antwerp South Port’, which has access to the sea-channel, and thus enhances the second largest seaport in Europe, -will eventually extend to 300,000 m². Alongside this logistics development, the 200,000 m² ‘European Market City’ is set to open in the next two years. This will be a trade meeting point, similar in concept to the Trade Mart located close to the Atomium in Brussels.

Impressive new architecture for Brussels South Station 
French architect Jean Nouvel has given some details of his vision for the renovation of Brussels South Station. He envisages an enormous V-shaped structure some 120 metres high, which will reflect images of both the trains and of the city. In this way, passers-by who are not actually inside the station will be able to see the trains moving. The renovation plan for the station fits into Brussels International Development Plan, which is focused around South Station, one of the city’s most important international hubs. 
Articles selection from the guide 
'Belgium Real Estate Showcase 2011'


VK engineers Waalse Krook

The “Waalse Krook” in Ghent for some time now has been an eyesore for the city authorities. The unoccupied buildings and the neglect of the famous Winter Circus resulted in a call for a new destination. The new destination of the site will be multimedia, with a new city library, a centre for new media and a Flemish institute for archiving. An Open Call of the Flemish Government Architect initiated a selection procedure, with a combination of Coussée & Goris and RCR Aranda Pigam Vilalta arquitectes as the laureate. VK takes care of the building services of this project.

Visit VK at Realty !
Feel welcome at the VK cocktail on May 25th, from 15h till 18h. You can subscribe to this cocktail, if you are also registered for the Realty fair.
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Few speculative office buildings to come on the market in 2011

During the economic crisis, the Brussels office market – for which an imposed moratorium had been discussed but dismissed – regulated itself, allowing market pressures and economic reality to dictate.  Construction projects were put on hold or delayed, and the resulting relative inactivity in terms of new space is set to continue this year. As a result, the vacancy level  is not likely to be pushed upwards by a plethora of speculative space coming onto the market. Those projects which have made their way through the various processes tend to be of high value, and they increasingly carry green certification.
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Real Estate development trend:
Converting obsolete offices to housing…

One of the consequences of the general desire to return cities to their inhabitants, is to reconvert obsolete or unused office buildings into residential accommodation – in some way reversing the trend of past decades which has seen entire districts submerged by offices. The trend is beginning to make ground in Brussels, and we asked two of the major players to explain the stakes.
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Property management : the impact of workplace design on vacancy
The concept of ‘dynamic office’ which is becoming more commonplace cannot be separated from the most recent information and communications technologies. In fact it is these which make this way of working possible. The ‘open plan office’ had already paved the way by removing partitions and encouraging working together. The concept of dynamic office goes further: it offers a way of working which makes it possible to alternate between working alone, in teams (themselves of varying sizes), on business trips, on several sites (subsidiaries or rented satellite offices), at home and virtually, through tele-presence.
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