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Region acquires Citroën Yser

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2015-10-29 – The Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region today announced the signature in the presence of a notary of the official deed formalising the purchase of the Citroën building on Place d’ Yser.

It may be recalled that, on taking up office in May 2013, the Minister-President announced his determination, firstly, to inject new life into the Canal Area, and secondly, for the Region to have a new Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in its territory. The Brussels government gave its backing to this twofold resolution, in particular by deciding that this major facility should be based in the Canal Area. This decision was then included in the July 2014 Government Accord, which provides for the revitalisation of this area for the benefit of its inhabitants and all the people of Brussels.

Significant cultural offerings by the Canal

As well as giving the Canal Area a significant boost, the creation of this Museum will enhance both its attractiveness to tourism and the creative and cultural processes already at work there. The area has gradually been forming an extensive cultural and artistic network, with initiatives by institutions, voluntary groups and private-sector operators.

The Canal Area’s many existing cultural venues appeal to a variety of interests:

  • industrial or social history: Brussels Museum of Industry and Work - La Fonderie; the Belgian Railway Museum – TrainWorld; the Gueuze Museum; the Sewerage Museum;
  • the performing arts: Kaaitheater, the Brussels City Theatre, Charleroi Danses, ROSAS, the Ecole du cirque;
  • the creative industries: the EGG, MAD Brussels, iMAL;
  • contemporary and current art: WIELS, BRASS, MIMA (in the future), etc.

The introduction of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art will thus add further to the area’s cultural appeal.

From garage to museum

The Citroën Yser complex has been chosen as the location for the new Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Both the modernist style of architecture and the strategic location of the building are appropriate for a major cultural facility of international standing such as this Museum, the Minister-President said.

In the same spirit as the Parc André Citroën, the modern-looking park on the grounds of the former car factory in Paris, the use of this complex to house modern art collections will not only make fitting use of the work of André Citroën and affirm the ‘showcase’ character of the building in accordance with the original intentions for it, but will also provide a venue to display and promote these collections that is second to none.

Citroën: future neighbour of Tour & Taxis

Following discussions in recent months with the building’s owner, the PSA Group, the Yser site is to be restructured to house this major cultural facility, as well as a new property development on the rest of the site in which housing may ultimately be created with an ideal waterside location. The restructuring of the rest of the site is equally fundamental for the renewal of the Canal Area. ‘With the development project at Tour & Taxis, the redevelopment of the Béco Dock, the Picard pedestrian bridge, the Up-Site project, the Tivoli project and the redevelopment of the Avenue du Port, I want to give the Vergotte and Béco Docks a new face in the years to come,’ added the Minister-President.

The talks have also focused on the issue of the relocation of the business activities of the PSA Group in Brussels. For both the PSA Group and the Region, the issue of maintaining and developing this commercial presence in the area was essential. This is why a key element of the agreement reached by the Region and the PSA Group is the installation of these commercial activities on the TACT site – an area of public land currently owned by the Port of Brussels that lies between the TIR centre and the Tour & Taxis site and that has been specifically designated for economic activities.

Site restructuring study

Citroën’s activities will remain in the Yser building for roughly another two years, until the PSA Group has built its new branch and moved its activities there. Meanwhile, the Region’s Land Acquisition Corporation (SAF) has launched an urban planning tender for the restructuring of the Yser site. The panel of judges, chaired by the Chief Architect of Brussels, met in October, and the winning firm will be officially announced in a few days. Work on the preparatory study will therefore start in the coming days and is expected to be completed in April 2016.

The multidisciplinary team that will be appointed will assess the possibilities for new uses for the Citroën Yser site, taking the following considerations into account:

  • the Region’s desire to reinvigorate the Canal Area;
  • the Region’s desire to bring a project of city-wide significance to this strategic location in the Canal Area, specifically by creating a modern and contemporary art museum of international standing there;
  • the recommendations of the ‘Canal Plan’ in terms of densification and diversity;
  • housing needs;
  • the historical characteristics of the site.

In terms of timing, ‘the Region’s ambition is to have completed the preparatory studies and launched the process of obtaining planning permission by the time  Citroën leaves, and to be in a position to open the new museum in 2018-2019,’ the Minister-President concluded.