The municipality of Brussels-City has set aside an additional budget of €1.6 million to help speed up works on the city-centre pedestrian zone, currently under construction. However opposition parties expressed concern that the undue haste might lead to a diminution of the quality of the planned works. The area in front of the Bourse, where the first protest picnics took place that led to the creation of the zone, will not be tackled until 2019. However the city wants the avenue between Fontainas and Riches Claires – the southern limits of the zone – to be completed by September this year, just in time for the municipal elections in October.
The works involved include the resurfacing of the pavement from facade-to-facade, in other words the removal of the distinction between pavement and road-surface, and the installation of green areas and new street furniture.
Since the creation of the zone in July 2016, critics have pointed to the unfinished and ad hoc nature of the zone, while the city’s plans sketch out a more developed plan – but at some distant remove. The latest push is being seen as an attempt by the city council to show some positive results in time for the elections. At present, the zone is a gigantic construction site.
“The works are going forward well, but this is a difficult project to bring to fruition,” said Philippe Close, mayor of Brussels-City. Close took office after the resignation of socialist-party colleague Yvan Mayeur, a fervent proponent of the zone, which was originally the conception of his predecessor Freddie Thielemans.