Place De Brouckère in central Brussels is finally to become fully car-free from later this month, the city council has announced.
Place De Brouckère is one of the two squares, along with Place Fontainas, that book-end the pedestrian zone in the centre, with Place de la Bourse in the middle.
But the idea of making De Brouckère car-free seemed doomed to failure when motorists won the concession of a single lane of traffic coming from the Boulevard Jacqmain, which crossed the square on the side of the cinemas, and gave cars access to the mini-ring road that directed them around the centre.
Later, the council had to give in to allow traffic on the other side of the square for access to the celebrated Hotel Metropole and its rich guests.
Now, however, the Metropole – the last family-owned four-star hotel in the city – is looking for a new owner, and its future is anything but certain. The service road that runs parallel to the square to service the main entrance will remain, but be separated from the car-free square proper.
The Jacqmain entrance to the square will be closed off permanently, and 20 new trees planted along the cinema side of the square.
But first, some repair work will be needed on the passage used by cars to cross the square. The flagstones covering the ground were intended for foot and bicycle traffic only, and have been damaged by the cars in the two years since they were first allowed back.
That operation will take seven weeks. The first phase covers the section between the Rue des Hirondelles and the Rue des Augustins, where in addition to pavement works, space will be made for the new trees, which will be planted in November.
The second phase from Hirondelles to Rue St-Michel will then follow in June, to be completed by the time the Brussels construction industry holiday begins on July 6.