Number 09 - March 2013 

Mipim evolving with the market
Next tuesday Mipim, the leading international property exhibition worldwide, will open its doors for the 24th time March (12th – 15th). Nearly 20.000 visitors (and exhibitors) from 83 countries will flock to the famous Croisette in Cannes for this gathering, and among them more than 950 Belgian participants. This year will see Turkey in the spotlight as ‘country of honour’, with a special pavilion to be opened by the country’s deputy Prime minister, Ali Babacan. The position of Turkey on the world property stage is accentuated by its pivotal position between Europe and Asia, and this position has now received a further boost from the country’s lawmakers. Last May, a regulation which banned certain categories of foreigner from buying property in Turkey was abolished. The list of topics to be covered during this year’s exhibition and conference programme perfectly illustrates how the real estate sector has expanded over recent years. It has become global in geographical terms, but now also takes in many more segments as ‘core’ (for developers and investors) than in the past. No longer are offices in major cities alone in attracting the interest of real estate professionals: topics covered will thus include cities and infrastructure, housing, health, hotel and tourism, retail and logistics. In addition this year, the Mipim Innovation Forum aims to provide a meeting point for all real estate players focused on building innovation, creating a new momentum for making business contacts and sharing best practices. Its conference programme will focus on the three themes of cities, smart buildings and energy efficiency. Read more...

Brussels Europa, development within an evolving urban framework
At the beginning of February, during a seminar organised by Laurence de Hemptinne relative to the new real estate and town planning landscape in Brussels, real estate developer Atenor unveiled the first full views of its project for Brussels Europa, to be located in the very heart of the European district. This project falls within the context of an evolving urban framework. In 2005 Atenor acquired the Crowne Plaza Brussels Europa hotel, located in the heart of the European district. The objective was to convert the building into a quality mixed real estate project, once the hotel activity ceased in December 2011. The project is now becoming a reality.
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Office vacancy still on the way down in the Brussels Region
The SDRB (Brussels Regional Development Agency) has just held its annual conference to set out the office vacancy levels in Brussels. In overall terms, vacancy is down for the third consecutive year, although there continues to be a wide gap between the city centre and the outlying districts. The best performers in the CBD are the Centre and North districts (5.3%), followed by the European district (6.8%). However, the SDRB does describe part of even these low levels as ‘structural, while Brussels Minister-President Charles Picqué sees a level of 5 or 6% as reflecting a fluid market. Overall vacancy across the whole market is 8.3%, or around 1.1 million square metres out of just over 13 million. Taking the very low levels of new deliveries expected this year along with a stable demand in view of some continuing economic uncertainty, the SDRB predicts another slight fall in vacancy in 2013.

Gateway, keystone of the future Airport Village
The attraction of the area around the airport for companies has been further demonstrated by Deloitte in a quite spectacular manner. The company is to occupy the whole of the ‘Gateway’ building to be developed by Codic and Immobel. And Gateway is not in the ‘airport zone’, but in the airport itself! The Gateway project represents the redevelopment of the former office building occupied by Sabena amongst others, adjacent to the original airport building. Once fully renovated, Gateway will be directly connected to the airport terminals.
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Interview with Serge Fautré, head of AG Real Estate
Understanding the new reality in real estate development and investment
At the head of AG Real Estate and with a long background at Cofinimmo, Serge Fautré is well placed to comment on the Belgian real estate market. His views are forthright, realistic and cover the whole spectrum of the real estate industry. The real estate sector has traditionally been seen as a safe haven for investors and others. It is quite clear that even though the sector is still more reliable than many others, the dynamics within it have changed, buffeted by sub-prime, the economic crisis, the Eurozone debt… Serge Fautré is well aware of all this.
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 Advanced Fire Safety Engineering by VK
In March 2012, the expansion of the Nivelles Shopping Centre opened its doors, in conclusion to a thorough renovation that started in 2007. 13,941m2 of additional retail area was realized, and more than 1,000 underground parking places. VK took care of the entire engineering (building services, structural and infrastructure), including BREEAM-assessment and fire safety engineering (FSE). The Nivelles shopping centre, managed by Wereldhave, won the biyearly Shopping Awards last October. The competition is organised by the Belgian-Luxembourg Council for Shopping Centres. The jury praised the balance between architecture, integration of old and new and sustainability. Previous editions of the Shopping Awards also rewarded some VK-projects: the Anspach Centre (2010) and Woluwe Shopping Centre (2006) as best renovations.

Neo, Uplace, Just under the Sky : they are competing for shoppers
The landscape where the proposed new shopping centres to the north of Brussels are concerned is not getting any less complicated. A debate has been raging for months (years?) as to whether the Neo mega-project on the Heysel plateau or Uplace in nearby Machelen should be preferred, or whether there is room for both, neither or even something else… And even the smaller-sized Just under the Sky shopping centre has not been free of controversy. Neo and Uplace are fiercely defended by their developers, and there has recently been some evolution in both. And Just under te Sky has recently received the go-ahead for its socio-economic permit.
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Building in the Brussels region : the compulsory passive standard
From 2015 Brussels would become the first region in Europe to make the passive standard compulsory for all new buildings and total renovations. There had already been a decrease of 18% in energy use in the Brussels Region between 2004 and 2010, despite a substantial increase in population. This is why Brussels is one of the top three green cities in Europe. During the conference organised end of last year by Buildgreen, experts looked at the important question of how the Brussels legislation making the passive standard compulsory would impact the market in concrete terms.
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Assar strives for 8th Mipim Award
One of the most eagerly-awaited highlights of each year’s Mipim exhibition is the announcement of the winners of the ‘Mipim Awards’. These awards are voted for by professionals and visitors, and are given to the architects of the projects selected. Thirty six candidate projects have been pre-selected following a very rigorous entry procedure. Belgian projects and architects have always been very well represented at the Mipim Awards, in particular by Assar, which has already won seven previous awards. It is no surprise, therefore, to see Assar selected once again this year, for the ‘best industrial and logistics development’ category with the Steel Headquarters at Louvain-la-Neuve.

The Take up in Antwerp is suffering
In its latest ‘on.point’ survey into the Flanders office market, Jones Lang LaSalle looks at some depth into the current state of Antwerp – Flanders’ largest market and Belgium’s second largest. Office take-up has been gradually improving from one quarter to another of 2012. However, take-up is still around 30% lower than the five year average and 20% below the figure for 2011. Jones Lang LaSalle attributes the relatively poor performance to the economic downturn which made itself particularly felt in the first quarter of 2012, which it describes as having seen a ‘spectacular downfall’. The pipeline is also weak (as with Brussels) and there is only likely to be an extra 12,000 m² of speculative development arriving on the market by the end of 2013.

Brussels Exemplary buildings - WTC IV joins the list
Presenting the winners of the fifth edition of ‘exemplary buildings’, Brussels Environment Minister Evelyne Huytebroeck once again said how proud she was of the lead the city takes in terms of eco-building. She also confirmed that the passive standard for all new buildings in the Brussels-Capital Region would be adopted from 2015 (thus putting an end to rumours that this date would be put back). The adoption of this standard had been agreed following discussions with the construction industry. In terms of exemplary buildings, Evelyne Huytebroeck was able to state that Brussels now has 193, with a total floor area of 520,000 m², and WTC IV joins the list. The criteria for receiving the label ‘exemplary’ are: best energy performance, lowest environmental impact, cost efficiency and replicable character, and architectural quality including good urban integration.

Transform the Brussels Law Courts into the centre of a campus
Little by little the idea of renovating and transforming – and even of seeing a new use for – this venerable monument on the Place Poelaert, is beginning to take hold. From the starting point of the 2010 competition and of a recent study into the accommodation possibilities of the building, a master plan has been drawn up by the Poelaert Foundation. The intentions are clear enough and the master plan which has just been proposed does schedule the retention of a substantial degree of legal functions for the Law Courts. The project nevertheless proposes accommodating in the Courts certain services such as cafés/restaurants, shops and cultural activities. Being open to the public, who would have access to the dome and the towers, would also lend it a tourism function which its heritage value undeniably merits.

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