Thursday 17 November 2016

The former BELVAL iron and steelworks site

The former BELVAL iron and steelworks site

Wasteland with real potential

Ultimately nearly 3000 housing units

In 15 years, Belval has reached half-way. Since the beginning of operations, AGORA has been responsible for the development of the site and the commercialisation of the various projects. Formed in equal parts by the State and ArcelorMittal, the company has created a unique site in Luxembourg out of these old industrial wastelands that had been operated for over 80 years. An urban space where diversity reigns on all levels: population, residential, tertiary and services. A site with a constant life of its own, highly prized by all the generations... and by numerous foreign investors. The details with Robert Kocian, Marketing and Development Manager with Agora.

Mr Kocian, what is Agora’s role in this?

Agora positions itself as a development company. In this context, it deals with the creation of infrastructures and pubic places in Belval such as the green spaces and roadways. It also intervenes as a developer for the commercialisation of the land, in other words, the sale of land plots devoted to the development of property projects. Our work is based on the master plan drawn up by the Dutch practice Jo Coenen.

How have you managed to ensure a linear progression with the site?

The first thing is that we refuse land sales that are for speculation. The role of Agora is to maintain a progressive rate of development, the urban and architectural quality of Belval that we wish to offer to the occupants of the site and to visitors. This involves the “maintenance” of an excellent overall image for the site.

Or 1.4 million m2

The master plan provides for the potential construction of 1.4 million m2. In this space a cohesive urban ensemble has been conceived which is planned to operate 24/7 with residential, tertiary sector, businesses and services, as well as culture and heritage content. Ultimately, in other words, over the next ten years, we expect to have 7000 inhabitants and 20-25,000 people active at the site on a daily basis, whether employees, students or researchers. This operation, distributed over the two communes of Esch sur Alzette and Sanem, will represent, in volume, over 30,000 people per day.

This is a whole new life that is springing out of the former industrial site, particularly with the arrival of new students?

With the end of the industrial operation of the site, it was necessary to find a project that forged an urban link between Belval and Esch. But it must be said that since 2001, things have developed faster that we had imagined they would. And it is all the better for it! The site has been a success with the residents, but also with foreign investors. This proves that it does indeed enjoy an excellent image. The first university term of 2015 enabled the arrival of 2000 occupants in one week. Currently 3000 go to the UL every day. In total, 6000 are expected over the coming years. All it required was the university dimension to complete the overall picture we had in mind.

Is the Belval site fully functioning yet?

Not only is it functioning, but it functions 24/7. Most of the roadways and public spaces have been created. A park with a dozen hectares was inaugurated in 2013 and the Waassertrap promenade creates the link between the north and south of Belval. Although the entire site is not yet occupied, it is usable in all its functions, including recreational.

You mentioned foreign investors. How are the property projects progressing?

The attractiveness of Belval on the market is reinforced by the international dimension. During the initial years, the protagonists in property projects were exclusively Luxembourgish. Belval is now being approached by foreign investors. This fact is illustrative of the success eexperienced in the operation. For example, Eiffage-Perrard (Franco-Luxembourgish) will be delivering the Galileo student residence in 2017, Strabag (German) with 75,000 m2 of offices to come, and Capelli (Swiss) 100 residences on the site.

In terms of accessibility, how has the site been configured?

Our objective was to have a distribution between public and private transport in the region of 60% -40%, which is very ambitious given the specific Luxembourg context. The government has in mind a distribution in the region of 75-25% by 2025 for the country as a whole. We wanted to anticipate this from the outset. The network has now been completed. The Belval station was inaugurated in 2012 and enables a link between Rodange and Belval with one train every 20 minutes. The link to Luxembourg-ville is just a 25 minute trip. Access by bus is very highly developed. Currently 15 bus lines serve Belval on a permanent basis, which is very unusual in terms of frequency, and this does not include the university bus line. On site, travel is possible by bicycle: for which 4 stations have been installed. 10,000 people are on the site every day, 10 years after the first building was built. This is an impressive score, which includes 2000 inhabitants, 4000 employees, 3000 students and 1600 pupils at the lycée Bel-Val.
In parallel with this there is a correspondingly dimensioned car parking provision.

For the resident population, 700 residential units have been delivered and many more are in the pipeline.

In effect 3000 residential units are planned in total, to reach a figure of 5,000 - 7000 residents. We are at 30% of the expected number so far. The residential provision is significant. Residents have now found their footing in Belval and are spreading the word about the quality of life that can be found there.
As for the student residential provision, in the south-west the Square Mile has a student residence of 400 places, Unival 1. Unival 2 opened in 2016 with 200 places and Galiléo will also have 200 places.

Between the south-east and the north-west, there is a separation of one kilometre, or 10 minutes on foot. It is hard to categorise one district as being more residential than another.

14 residences have been delivered in Belval Nord / North and 6 are still to come. There are essentially apartments, and terraced houses with a view of the promenade. The commune of Sanem has built a Centre Intégré Pour Personnes Agées (CIPA) [Integrated Centre for the Elderly] with a capacity of 120 places. There is also a student residence with 50 places created by the Fondation LaLux. The district is a fine example of a diverse intergenerational mix. Furthermore, all the constructions are located in green, open spaces.
Belval Sud [South] will be created in the same vein. 400 mainly residential units are scheduled to be started in 2018. In the south-east, there is the nerve centre of the site with the Terrasse des Hauts-Fourneaux and the Square Mile, which accommodate the University, the research centres, the BIL building, businesses, administrative departments and the commercial centre, and which also includes the first 250 apartments delivered in Belval. The Rockhal attracts over 10,000 visitors a month.

What are the major construction programmes?

3 mixed residential programmes are planned: Tracol intends to build 100 residences as from 2017, Asar-Soludec will deliver 96 residences between now and 2016 and the Capelli Towers building will start at the beginning of 2017 on the construction of 100 apartments. The pre-commercialisation of all these elements is very significant: 85% sales are achieved before the site building starts. 18 plots remain to be developed in the Square Mile district. For the Belval Sud projects, a good mix between businesses and residences or offices and residences is envisaged. Finally, 14,000 m2 of offices are in the process of being developed. There is a genuine effort to introduce into each district the same flexibility and the same mix, so that residents and occupants can recognise themselves in a lively and animated urban space.
 
Encadré / Frame

The CAPELLI TOWERS

Located in the south of Belval, the Capelli Towers offer 100 apartments, ranging from studios to 3 bedroom apartments, distributed in two towers of 13 and 15 floors. “The futuristic design of these two towers combines architectural expertise and innovation”, comments Fernand Hornung, Director of Unicorn. “But the special feature of these 2 towers is that they will offer a panoramic terrace on the top floor of each of them. These are reserved for use by the occupants and are fully laid out and equipped”. The two towers will be amongst the tallest residential buildings in the south of Luxembourg, with an unimpeded view...
As an expert in the sale of property in Belval, having handled a hundred or so over the past five years, the Unicorn agency also has “the largest repertoire of apartments for lease”. For the manager, living in Belval is a real alternative. “You can treat yourself to almost double the floor space in comparison with Luxembourg-Ville, or pay half for the same number of rooms”. Furthermore, anyone buying in Belval would be sure “to be able to lease or achieve added value within five years”, because “the site has yet to reach its full maturity”.