The City of Brussels has approved plans to transform the Van Praet neighbourhood to the northeast of the city along the canal into a sustainable district with a new school, a theatre and compact housing.
The Van Praet ZIR4 master plan results from seven months of analysis and discussions with the local neighbourhood council.
It will turn the area between the Van Praet bridge and Avenue des Croix du Feu, to the northeast of the Royal Domain of Laeken and known as a funnel for traffic entering and leaving the city, into a livable urban intersection by 2026.
Preserving the green, and the blue
The plan puts the preservation of the existing green space in the area at the heart of the transformation, according to the city councillor for urban development Ans Persoons.
“The green space will be the framework within which the new buildings must fit. This will allow us to preserve open space as much as possible, collect rainwater as much as possible and create compact building blocks,” she said in a press release.
As the 27 ha zone’s ground used to resemble that of a wetland, it is prone to flooding, and the plans have taken the presence of excessive water in the area into account.
However, this element will become a strength rather than a weakness in the transformation, with the creation of swamp forest, which will be reserved as a low-traffic zone and become an ecological hot-spot, and a floodable park (see pictures below).
This will also help the region prepare for climate change, as it will be collecting rainwater in the lowered zones and then discharging it slowly, which will relieve the sewerage system and create opportunities for water reuse.
The swamp forest. Credit: Ans Persoons cabinet
Where there is a lack of open space, a mixed urban district will be created, including housing, a crèche and a sports theatre complex.
The plans also include constructing a secondary school for 700 pupils, which has been welcomed due to the “growing need for secondary school places”.
“The region is not only building high-quality and sustainable housing in accordance with the policy of the 2018-2024 Housing Plan but is also strengthening the educational offer with a new school and a day-care centre, turning the Van Praet zone into a lively, welcoming and resilient neighbourhood,” said Lydia Mutyebele Ngoi Alderman responsible for Housing, Public Patrimony and Equal Opportunities said.
For the redesigning of the district, the philosophy of the ’10-minute city’ that the region has been applying for several years now was followed, in which all basic facilities in residential areas must be within a maximum of 10 minutes walking distance.
The neighbourhood will also be future-proofed for pedestrians and cyclists, Persoons added, whilst a tramline is being created which should start passing by the edge of the site by 2024.