Commune of Mersch
The centre of the country is expanding
An economic activities zone enlarged by 20 ha, and 20 PAPs [special development plans] underway
Mersch, derived from its original name, Marisca, is a former Roman town. Located at the heart of the country, 224 metres above sea level, Mersch spreads out over the hollow of the picturesque basin created by nature at the points of confluence of the rivers Alzette, Eisch and Mamer. Formerly an industrial location, Mersch is still a large rural village, and the imminent Zone d’Activité Régionale [regional business zone] should sustain its economic development. Michel Malherbe, burgomaster provides us with the details.
Burgomaster, how would you describe your commune?
The commune is made up of 8 areas: Mersch, Beringen, Essingen, Moesdorf, Pettingen, Reckange, Rollingen and Schoenfels, with a total of 9147 inhabitants, mainly of Luxembourgish and Portuguese nationality, although there are nearly 95 different nationalities represented here. Our commune is located in the centre of the country. We enjoy all the conveniences of every day life, surrounded by a very rural setting. Perched high up, the castle is the central and characteristic element of Mersch, and the Saint-Michel tower is the emblem of the town. The rivers Mamer, Eisch and Alzette pass through the territory, which makes Mersch a spa town.
Shortly after the beginning of the 20th century, Mersch expanded due to strong industrial activity: arms manufacture, printing, etc. From the 60s, it grew economically with the first commercial and craft trades activities zone in Mierscherbierg. Mersch is also the commune with the largest tract of forestry land, at 1150 hectares, which makes it the country’s primary green lung. We have 2,323 hectares of agricultural land.
What are its infrastructure assets?
In terms of infrastructures, we have an excellent educational infrastructure, a large number of businesses and services, a Maison de la Culture, and an exceptional camping site as well as a communal park, of 20 hectares. In the Kirchenwiesen, where the Mamer flows into the Alzette, an artificial lake has been created, surrounded by benches, a panoramic viewpoint, and a small pavilion. From the idyllic lake, via the adventure playground for the children, and the highly coloured play equipment for the youngest children, to the comfortable benches, and clean, well-kept pathways, nothing, and nobody has been forgotten. An ideal place for anyone who needs to relax.
Concerning education, 3 lycées, two of which are situated close to the station: the Lycée classique/technique de Diekirch (LCD) Bâtiment de Mersch, the Lycée Technique pour Professions Educatives et Sociales [technical lycee for educational and social professions] and the Lycée Ermesinde, accommodating a total of approximately 2200 students. The Krounebierg Centre Aquatique [aquatic centre] has a very good reputation, as does our Hall Omnisports. We are about to inaugurate our new maison-relais Nic Welter [transition centre] and the Nic Welter school, cycle 1, which will be open in time for the new academic year. Costs amount to over €15 million. In addition, the start of construction on a new maison relais Krounebierg [transition centre] to accommodate 400 children and with a budget of €11.5 million is planned for summer 2017.
Since 1971, the commune has offered musical education provided by the Union Grand-Duc Adolphe (UGDA) in the Mersch region. With a view to the constant enhancement of the provision of services for its inhabitants, the political managers of the commune have decided, together with the 4 other communes of the Alzette valley, namely Lintgen, Lorentzweiler, Steinsel and Walferdange and UGDA, to harmonise musical education for the region.
Does this mean that Mersch is a new town?
In any case, this is a place to which many families want to move. In the past ten years, we have noted an average demographic growth of 2% a year. In 1945, there were 3257 inhabitants, in 1995 there were 6654, and there are now over 9000. It ranks 11th nationally in terms of population, and 8th in size of territory, which represents 1.92% of the country’s area.
When people buy here, it is generally in order to stay! It should be borne in mind that we are 15 minutes from Kirchberg and 20 minutes on average from most of the main towns by car. By train, we can reach Luxembourg ville in 11 minutes. Our commune is served by the main motorway routes and we ensure that traffic is alleviated in the town centre through the use of bypasses. The Administration des Ponts et Chaussées [highways authority] has just created a new bridge at the Agrocenter site and recently opened the new viaduct between Mersch and Rollingen which has become a new landmark (Wahrzeichen) for Mersch with these two towers, and makes a veritable entrance to the town; in addition, the Administration des Ponts et Chaussées, jointly with the CFL is in the process of creating a new road link between Moesdorf and Mierscherbierg. Alongside these projects, there are a large number of commune and State projects under consideration, with a view to the redevelopment of other roads and the creation of links for soft mobility (the Schoenfels cycle track, the bridge at Beringen, etc.…). Finally, everything is possible in Mersch without having to travel: healthcare, food, work, and education. We have even established that it is possible to build your own house by using all the specialist trades that are present locally.
And concerning Zones, Mierscherbierg has nearly 30 businesses. But this is just the beginning…
Mersch is one of the country’s CDAs (centres for development and attraction). Our PAG [General development plan] will be extended by a gross surface area of 20 hectares for craft activities, and will accommodate the Zone d’Activité Régionale [Regional business activity zone] planned with the communes of Lintgen and Lorentzweiler. The “new road link” will enable direct access to the national road and to the motorway. This zone will also lead to the relocation of various activities from their current centre.
Regarding accommodation, there are still 37 hectares of land to be divided up. What are your plans?
A new p.a.p. [special development plan] with a gross surface area of 17 hectares is in the process of being created in the station district by the commune, formerly called the Agrocenter. In 2010, the commune and the State had firstly funded an consultation, involving all stakeholders, to develop an initial vision for this district. This former agro-industrial location will subsequently be developed by a major Luxembourg developer for conversion into residential accommodation and will also be provided with other activities, such as a large P&R with 420 spaces. The demolition of some existing buildings will be required in the first instance and, as required, the depollution of the land. However the Nouvelle Luxlait Produits factory (ice cream production) will remain there for a while longer. This new district will be able to accommodation 1800 people, or over 700 residential units, and will become an integral part of the centre of Mersch.
A consultation was also funded for Mersch’s existing centre, to enable its revitalisation. In this context, we also anticipate the establishment of a new educational site in Rollingen and a partial relocation of sports infrastructures to the periphery of Mersch to avoid the current centre being over-developed, and to create new accommodation capacity in the centre. In mid-2017, a Parkleitsystem [parking guidance and information system] will be installed near the station to enable better management of the parking of 400 vehicles. Currently, 20 p.a.ps [special development plans] are under consideration, in process or being implemented, representing potentially 1200 residential units. With the “Baulücken” project, SNHBM will be offering affordable housing at 3500 euros/m2, building on communal land on the basis of a long-term lease.
The commune also intends to create its own projects to promote housing, for example with the Faber residence, the Aelenterwee p.a.p. in Mersch or with the Belle-Vue p.a.p. in Rollingen, or 20 residential units. In conclusion, many old sites such as the Faber printing works site, the Agrocentre or Creos, are ready to be divided up but no date can as yet be given fro this. We have some major construction projects, but this will take time.
Living in the centre of Luxembourg: at what price?
With public transport links (bus and train) and with the benefit of the recent opening up of the motorway, Mersch is increasingly sought after. The village is growing, and approving some major PAP projects, but must be subject to certain existential limitations. “If the government is not willing to release more land, we will not be able to build any more”, explains Abby Toussaint, manager of the property agency of the same name, based in Mersch since 1979.
As the current supply is already very limited and demand is increasing all the time, prices are increasing, positioning Mersch even higher than some towns, but already beyond the means of young people. “For the new construction, the price per m2 is 5,000 to 6,000 euros and 85,000 – 90,000 euros per are, and for the existing stock, depending on location, age and condition, in the region of 4000 euros”. For the market specialist, future purchasers will be looking for more two-bedroom residences of approximately 80-85 m2, “that are more affordable for purchase and more viable for lease”, approximately 1400 euros for rental for new builds, and 1250 euros for older properties. “Property for lease is taken up very quickly because demand is so strong“. Property of the studio type, which would enable young people to live in the commune is virtually non-existent. However, there is no standard profile for providers or seekers of accommodation. “There are just as many young families as there are older people who want to buy or rent here, quite simply because one can live here without the need to use a car. Mersch is a sort of cocoon, one can live here in agreeable privacy, surrounded by nature and just kilometres from the capital. That is quite a luxury”.
Emilie DI VINCENZO