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A single public structure for the Canal Area

Yves Goldstein (ADT-ATO) - ©ADT-ATO/Reporters

2014-04-30 – The Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region set out the foundations for a future single structure to be tasked with rationalising public action in the Canal Area on Tuesday, during the opening morning of the conference ‘Canal Days 2014 - Urban areas in transformation in Brussels and Europe’. The conference, organised by the Urban Development Agency for the Brussels-Capital Region (ADT-ATO), brought together some 400 participants near the Gare du Midi railway station over a period of two days.

Stressing the importance of the Canal Plan developed by Alexandre Chemetoff at the request of the Regional Government, the Minister-President stated that ‘the implementation of these proposals thus requires boldness and courage. On the part of everyone. And it certainly requires us to move away from the reassurance of the old recipes! The development of this Area can only take shape within an exemplary framework which is both structural and strong. To this end, it is necessary to take decisions and launch new proposals that will ensure success.’

‘Mobilising public land within this structure’

The Minister-President explained that certain ‘necessary decisions were taken during the last government session of this legislature’.

These are as follows:

  • ‘The definition of a Regional Interest Perimeter, modelled on Alexander Chemetoff’s Regional Domain(*), within which the Region will be the issuing authority for all permits’;
  • ‘The labelling of the projects developed within this perimeter: to obtain this label, projects must be based on the principles of density, diversity and urban integration, and must bring added value to the City’.

‘But we need to go further,’ added the Minister-President. ‘We cannot afford to change nothing!It will also be necessary to:

  • Establish an ad hoc operational structure for the preparation and implementation of projects within the perimeter;
  • And to mobilise public land within this structure in order to rationalise the implementation of projects and focus public action effectively.’

And the Minister-President concluded as follows: ‘Much more than a vision, we need a method and a form of governance in order to build together the future of this area which has such potential. And we have taken the first steps in this process. It is now up to us to continue and expand the dynamics of public action in order to provide concrete answers to the people of Brussels.’

Europe and Brussels

The President of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union then welcomed some pioneering achievements in the Canal Area and central districts of Brussels and situated them in the context of EU policies (see elsewhere).

The Brussels Regional Minister for the Environment, Energy and Urban Regeneration, who is responsible for the ERDF Funds in Brussels, emphasised the importance of the Funds and several concrete achievements that they have made possible. She also announced the upcoming launch of an ‘ERDF Academy’ to support the sponsors of projects for which funding applications will be made during the next ERDF programming period from 2014 to 2020 (see left).

Luc Maufroy, the director of the ADT-ATO, set the changes in the Canal Area in a historical perspective and highlighted the many public initiatives to revitalise this central axis of development and harness the potential of land and buildings left vacant as a result of deindustrialisation: district contracts, the Zone for Economic Urban Stimulation (ZEUS), the Canal Plan, and so on. Alexandre Chemetoff then set out his recommendations for four of the six Canal Plan pilot zones (see left and the new ADT-ATO brochure distributed at the conference, available here).

Business and urban integration

On Tuesday afternoon, the Minister for Public Works, Transport and the Port of Brussels unveiled a series of projects designed to strengthen the integration of the Port and its economic and logistical functions in the urban space (see left).

The Minister for the Economy, Employment, Economic Research and Foreign Trade then reviewed the many support schemes for investors in the Canal Area, including ZEUS (see left).

‘The revival of the Canal Area (...) will symbolise the revival of Brussels

At the end of the morning of Wednesday 30 April, just before the start of the field visits, the President of the ADT-ATO Yves Goldstein brought the discussions to a close by emphasising in particular the remarks made the previous morning by the Minister-President on the governance of the Canal Area. He concluded that in his view ‘It is during the next ten years that the revival of the Canal Area will either succeed or fail. (...) And that revival will symbolise the revival of Brussels.’

(*) The Regional Domain is a network of spaces totalling 313 hectares spread across the entire Canal Area and mainly controlled by the public authorities, within which the Region thus has land that it can leverage in support of its approach.