A massive urban development project in northern Brussels’ Heysel Plateau has been bogged down by many hurdles in recent months, Le Soir daily reported on Wednesday.
The Neo 1 Project includes the building of a 72,000-square metre commercial centre along Houba De Strooper Avenue, but Flanders recently refused to issue a permit to build a link road to the Ring.
Moreover, the granting of the future urban development permit for the project, which further includes the construction of hundreds of homes, a cinema and a recreational area, depends on prior authorisation for the modification of the Regional Land Use Plan, PRAS.
This authorisation was withdrawn a first time by the Council of State in response to a complaint by area residents. A complaint against a revised version was then filed with the Council, whose auditor issued a negative opinion.
The lodging of yet another application for authorisation in 2019 seems illusory and the first inaugurations, planned for 2023, seem even more unlikely, according to Le Soir.
Investment by the City of Brussels, along with the Region, in the implementation of the Neo 2 Project is conditioned on the start-up of Neo 1 and financial support from the private Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield consortium to the City of Brussels, which owns the ground and the buildings.
Neo 2 entails the creation of an international congress centre opposite the exhibition centre. The project to build and operate the centre has been awarded to the Cofinimmo/CFE Consortium, for which the City and Region are required to pay an annual fee.
According to Le Soir, the cost of the operation has caused concern among many administrators and people close to the project, especially since exhibition centres hosting many salons and fairs would need considerable renovations.
A German consultancy commissioned at the initiative of Mayor Philippe Close, chairman of Brussels Expo, attested to the relevance of a congress centre, according to the daily. However, its experts also concluded that it was necessary to link the management of the congress and exhibition structures and renovate the exhibition centre.
Le Soir reported further that Close wishes to have an assessment done on the two solutions advocated by the consultancy, particularly with regard to their cost: pursuing Neo2, but with complementarities with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th centres, or scrapping it and building a convention centre on the site of Brussels Expo, to be renovated in any event.