Place Sainte-Catherine is a focal point in the centre of Brussels, a hub of restaurants and bars with surrounding streets pedestrianised for almost three years. But work is still needed to adapt the area to the increased footfall.
Cars are prohibited from Rue Sainte-Catherine, which connects the bustling square with Boulevard Anspach. But the street has changed little since vehicles used to pass along it. The separate pavement and road can be awkward for cyclists and pedestrians, but this will be transformed in the coming months.
"This is an iconic street that all Brussels residents know and love. Turning it into a pedestrian zone was a logical step; now it will also have the design and grandeur to match," said Brussels councillor for town planning and public spaces Ans Persoons.
Adapted for walking
The street will be overhauled as a pedestrian zone by lowering the pavement to the same level as the road, as was recently done on Rue Paul Delvaux (between Rue Sainte-Catherine and Bourse). Nine trees will be planted to make it greener and provide shade, with taller ones marking the entrance from Rue des Poissonniers.
Works are scheduled to start around mid-March, allowing utility companies a chance to renew their underground infrastructure.
The works will then continue up to the adjacent streets Rue de Flandre and Rue Melsens. An improved visual and spatial connection will be made with Rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains, bringing the entire surface to the same level and removing bollards and road furniture. The remaining parking places in the area will also disappear, making space for bicycle stands.
On the eastern side of the square, the area around the medieval Tour Noir will be renovated, with the fences blocking the tower removed to create a unified green space
State Secretary for Town Planning Pascal Smet welcomed the planned renovations, noting that Rue Sainte-Catherine was "little more than an open-air car park until not so long ago."
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"Rebuilding the central avenues and giving them back to the people was one of the best decisions we made in Brussels in recent decades. We are now renovating numerous streets, squares and buildings in the neighbourhood, bringing back the grandeur of the centre of yesteryear," he added.
The streets around the Brucity building, the new administrative building of the City of Brussels, will also soon be made greener and more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists – all part of "upgrading the neighbourhood."