Number 12 - October 2013 

Brussels housing – meeting the target
The question of how Brussels is going to reach its target of building 6,000 new residential units per year over the coming few years, was the subject of two of the interventions at the conference organised by Editions & Séminaires in Brussels last week. Brussels Region Minister-President Rudi Vervoort spoke of the need to attract people back into Brussels, and keep the next generation here with affordable housing. He also said that Brussels needs to live with the fact of an increasing population, and that the legislative framework must not be fixed and unchangeable. We have to give ourselves the tools to meet the challenge. Get the information, put the plans into action and be flexible. But he also underlined that the provision of housing can’t bulldozer everything else out of the way – we need schools, crèches, public infrastructure… There are currently 30 special housing priority zones, including Josaphat, the canal zone, and even Tour & Taxis (a private development). Here, the Region’s job is to create the right conditions for the developer.
The focus has to be on low to medium rent accommodation, some of which will be subsidised (to the tenant) in one way or another. One of the keys, is to make the permit process simpler. Creating an ‘alliance’ between the public and private players in order to achieve a common goal is also possible, even though within this, one should acknowledge each player also has his own goals.

RICS commits to sustainable renovation
The British-based institute RICS has recently published a report entitled ‘Sustainability – improving performance in existing buildings”. This title itself demonstrates the crux of the problem when it comes to the surge towards environmentally-friendly buildings . There is a great deal of communication and self-congratulation every time a new ‘passive’ or low energy building is created, but new buildings only represent a tiny proportion of the entire building stock. RICS is therefore looking at the way in which its members can advise clients not only about new constructions, but also about how best to tackle the renovation question.

Brussels offices letting activity is quiet but investors appetite for offices is recovering
Using the market analysis done by Jones Lang LaSalle and published in their on.point report for the second quarter of the year, we have a look at Brussels office market situation up to the end of June. The take up during the second quarter was 101,000 m², exactly the same as in the first quarter, which means that the 202,000 m² year to date is just 2.5% down on the figure for the first half of 2012. The outstanding transaction of the quarter was the letting to AXA of the Marnix II building (currently occupied by ING) and the pre-let of the Regent, the renovation project of the former HQ of GDF Suez (Electrabel).

Brussels RTBF/VRT site, a media city in the making
The RTBF/VRT complex, with its iconic tower, is to be redeveloped as the infrastructures are over 40 years old and no longer suitable for the operations of modern broadcasting companies. Emmanuel Robben, RTBF Facilities Director, points out that the RTBF and VRT were the only European broadcasters still to be in such old premises. The redevelopment plans for the site have been somewhat hampered by uncertainty about the future plans of the VRT. But in April this year, it decided it would stay on the site, but in a new building. The objective is to create a ‘village’ atmosphere and a media city on the site.
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Médiacité in German hands
There has been a major transaction in the retail world – almost as major as they can get – confirming the interest of retail in Belgium to foreign investors. Médiacité, the giant complex on the banks of the Meuse close to Liège city centre, has just been acquired by German group Union Investment Real Estate. Médiacité, developed by city centre shopping specialist Wilhelm & Co. and designed by Ron Arad, has not been the instant success it was expected to be. Nevertheless Union – like Wilhelm when conceiving the project – clearly sees a long term future for the shopping centre; Liège is transforming and is at the centre of a major consumer zone.

Town planning and real estate market projects in the news

Retail investments in Namur
It has been the case for some time that segments other than offices are proving to be active within the Belgian real estate market. This is in particular true for retail. During this year to date Cushman & Wakefield has acted in a record six retail investment transactions in Namur for a total invested sum of around 26 million Euros. The nature of the retail market in Belgium as a whole can be described in very general terms as ‘pro-city centre, anti out of town shopping centre…’ This has the effect of making retailers and investors with good city centre spots and in the case of Namur, the future arrival of the shopping centre ‘Le Côté Verre’ along Namur central Railway station will add to the attraction of the city for shoppers.

AXA to leave 'Royal Belge' in 2017
Boulevard du Souverain in Brussels south has been home to AXA Belgium and its predecessor ‘la Royale Belge’ for a very long time. The building is still known as the ‘Royal Belge’ by most Brussels residents. But the insurance/real estate/banking company has announced that it is to leave its historic home in 2017. AXA will be moving to a building located at the Place du Trône, which is within the ‘European’ central business district and right on the edge of the historic centre of the capital. The reasoning behind the move is to offer an easily accessible location to clients, thus providing services known as ‘click & face’.

SEGRO reorganising logistics activities
SEGRO has announced that it has bought out its Belgian logistics property joint venture partner. This was KBC Real Estate, which held a 50% stake in the joint venture, a stake which SEGRO has now acquired for € 33.2 million. The logistics real estate assets in the joint venture consisted of two logistics premises totalling 92,000 m² of built space. One of these is at at Bornem (30,000 m²) where the occupiers are DHL and two distributors of medical supplies, Alcon and Pharma Distri Center. The other is at Rumst (62,000 m²), occupied by Cummins.

Sale of the former Preiss-Daimler 6 hectare factory site in Battice (Verviers) lifts sluggish logistics market
The news that a major 6 hectare logistics site has been acquired by new owners provides an opportunity to take a look at the logistics property market in Belgium during the early part of this year. The site involved in the latest transaction is the former Preiss-Daimler factory in Battice near Verviers (Liege province), which has been bought by the Jost Group, a major European logistics and transport company. The Jost Group, offers services in road transport, logistics warehouses, sea and air freight, customs and shipping. It already has a warehouse stock of around 250,000 m² of storage. The sale was handled by Jones Lang LaSalle.

Rest homes attracting more interest
The growing interest of investors in the senior citizens’ rest homes segment in Belgium has been further demonstrated by a purchase transaction recently completed. Aedifica has announced that it has acquired all shares of the limited liability company Patrius Invest, which is the owner of two rest homes in the province of Antwerp: Salve in Brasschaat and Plantijn in Kapellen. This specific case is a perfect example of why investors are interested in the segment.


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