Living and working in a park: such is the basic appeal of the diverse and sustainable district which will be created on the disused railway site of the former Josaphat marshalling yard.
This huge pear-shaped site, which is hidden away and little-known, is bordered by Boulevard Leopold III, Avenue Gilisquet and Boulevard Wahis, the last of which separates it from Josaphat Park, with which it is sometimes confused. At the far end of this vast area of 24 hectares is the Evere stop on SNCB-NMBS line 26, which splits the pear into two halves which are currently separated, but will be linked together by the planned developments. This location on a line of the future RER, whose service has already been improved by the opening of the Schuman-Josaphat Tunnel, is one of the major advantages for the development of the new sustainable district, with the prospect of fast links to the airport, the European Quarter and other employment centres.
At present, the site consists of a wasteland on either side of the railway tracks, and an industrial zone to the east of the tracks.
The role of the SAU-MSI
The SAU-MSI (at that time SAF-MVV) purchased the land from the Railway Infrastructure Fund (FIF-FSI). After being cleaned up, it was the subject of a wide-ranging consultation process bringing together regional and local stakeholders.
This led to the formulation of a master plan, approved by the government of the Brussels-Capital Region in March 2014. This plan has since been the subject of numerous technical studies, coordinated by the SAU-MSI, to refine, validate and improve the first options. An environmental impact report has also been produced, to ensure that the new district is integrated seamlessly into its environment.
The following options have been developed:
- the site will be linked to the surrounding neighbourhoods, and will retain its character as a green lung, allowing residents and people from nearby to enjoy an uninterrupted green space of almost 4 hectares;
- about 1,600 dwellings will be built: 45% public housing to meet the needs of the Region’s population for affordable housing; and 55% private housing, mostly at entry-level prices. Two rigorous principles will apply here: social diversity across the district and quality of housing, with each dwelling directly overlooking a green space;
- as the district develops, all the necessary facilities will be gradually introduced to meet the needs and expectations of its future occupants, as well as of people already living in the surrounding area, in terms of schools and childcare, sports, culture and leisure facilities;
- the industrial zone will be equipped, modernised and redefined to create a business and employment district of high environmental and urban value.
The various reflections are being finalised, so that the plans can be submitted to public inquiry. After the various official bodies have been consulted, the regional government will be able to adopt a master plan which will be put into effect immediately.
Once the provisional go-ahead has been given by the government, the SAU-MSI will prepare for work on the site, acting at two levels. First, it will coordinate all the preparatory operations undertaken by the many different public bodies relating to the introduction of utilities, the creation of green spaces and the introduction of facilities. Second, it will it will initiate a contract award procedure in the form of a competitive dialogue for the gradual implementation of a first phase of development consisting of around 650 public and private dwellings in the south of the site.
On the site, the first work will concern the introduction of utilities and the creation of a park with an area of 2.7 hectares. The budgets for this investment phase will come from the Beliris fund, with work due to start in 2018. The construction of housing and facilities will begin soon afterwards, extending over a period of 10 years.