Usquare.brussels: the Brussels-Capital Region has granted the ULB and the VUB an emphyteusis
The Usquare.brussels urban development project, which received subsidies from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), has entered a new phase. The Brussels-Capital Region (BCR), the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) recently signed the documents relating to the emphyteusis granted to the two universities.
Rudi Vervoort, the Minister-President of the BCR, Annemie Schaus, rector of the ULB, and Caroline Pauwels, rector of the VUB, signed the documents relating to the emphyteusis or long lease granted free of charge and for a period of fifty years.
At the end of 2020, Usquare.brussels made some important headway, following the adoption of the finalised Master Development Plan by the BCR in November, the issuance of the first planning permits in October for the projects of the universities and the SAU, and the publication by the Société du Logement de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale (SLRB, Brussels-Capital Region housing company) of the tender for the first of the public housing projects planned on the site.
The See U team won a visit.brussels Award in November 2020 for its temporary occupation of the site. This occupation, an initiative of the SAU, has been extended until construction starts during the second half of 2021.
An innovative and open university centre
The emphyteusis relates to 6 buildings (covering a total surface area of 10,805 sqm) along the boulevard Général Jacques and avenue de la Couronne. It gives the two universities the right to renovate and transform the buildings into an open and innovative university centre, with the regional authorities retaining ownership of the land.
The rest of the former barracks, comprising a total of 22 buildings and 56,500 sqm of land, will be converted into a new mixed and sustainable neighbourhood, with affordable student housing, public housing for families, a food hall, and local amenities.
Following the issuance of the planning permit in October 2020, a public procurement notice to designate the general contractor was published. The contract is expected to be awarded in May. The universities and the SAU expect construction to commence in October 2021. The works are scheduled for completion by the end of 2023.
The BCR and the universities have received significant financial support from the European Regional Development Fund(ERDF) for this sustainable development project.
The ERDF has granted a subsidy of 9,033,200 euro for the conversion of the university centre. The conversion of the Stables into a sustainable food hall, to be managed by the SAU, received a grant to the tune of 1,391,398.10 euro.
Universities play an important role in the community in terms of sustainable development
Universities are key players in the city, making a tangible contribution with their academic expertise to the development of a sustainable city. Several pilot projects have already been implemented at Usquare.brussels including geothermal dewatering and the use of recovered materials to strengthen the city’s resilience and sustainability.
The university’s administrators also want Usquare.brussels to become a hub for international exchanges and synergies, between researchers and students, but also with the city and the world. The ULB and the VUB will set up partnerships in the field of sustainability, entrepreneurship, innovation and co-creation. The project will also have an international dimension, with housing for students and researchers, as well as an international reception area.
Finally, future research projects such as the Brussels Research Open Lab, the Citizen Sciences research centre, the Brussels Research Institute, and the International Reception Centre are a good example of the universities’ ambition to include citizens in their work.
The SAU will coordinate the redevelopment project
The SAU is currently focussing on four specific aspects of Usquare.brussels.
After obtaining a planning permission, the regional planner is currently preparing the start of the conversion in the autumn of 2021 of the former stables into a sustainable food hall.
In addition, the SAU is organising the upcoming public tender for the construction of student housing. A participatory process has also been launched on the design of the public spaces across the entire site with the current and future occupants of the site and local residents.
Finally, given the start of construction by autumn 2021 and the departure of the Federal Police from the last buildings that it still occupied, the SAU has assigned new buildings to See U, whose temporary occupation of the site has been extended.