During the past weeks, much ink has been spilled on our innovative project Uplace. Therefore, we believe this newsletter is a good opportunity to give you a thorough overview on where we stand. During the first 6 months of this year we had a series of positive developments making sure the realisation of Uplace is coming closer. The foreseen timing of the first stone, beginning 2017, remains the same. If everything goes according to plan, we will open our doors two years later, in spring 2019.
1. New Brownfield agreement since February 2015
In February 2015 the Flemish Government and Uplace came to an understanding on the new Brownfield agreement. It is the third time that Uplace came to such an agreement with the entire Flemish Government (first in 2009, then in 2010). The Brownfield agreement is an agreement of principle between the government and a private player to remediate soiled land and breathe new life into a region. The first Brownfield agreement between Uplace and the Flemish Government was changed in response to the remarks made by the Council of State. There are today 75 of these agreements in Flanders with private players to bring back economic life to soiled grounds.
2. Final approval to the Regional Spatial Development Plan for the VSGB since January 2016
In January 2016, he entire Flemish Government gave its final approval to the Regional Spatial Development Plan (RSDP) of the Flemish Strategic Area around Brussels (FSAB), of which Uplace is a part. With this decision, the Flemish Government supported the project for the 12th time and has opted for Uplace as a driver for several thousand jobs (5.600 during construction phase and 3.250 after opening) and for social integration in a region that is longing for an economic and social boost.
The FSAB RSDP of which Uplace is a part, is developed within the vision of the Flemish Government for the reconversion area Vilvoorde-Machelen. With the plan, the Flemish Government is offering solutions for a region that was marked by a harsh economic reality after the departure of factories such as Renault in 1997. Since then, the region is neglected and had to deal with a high rate of unemployment. After thorough research, the Flemish Government decided to rebuild the region with a mix of retail, entertainment, green, transport, logistics, SME, offices, housing and hospitals. The plans of Uplace remain untouched.
3. New environmental permit presented
On 23 June 2016, the Flemish Minister of Environment Joke Schauvleige presented the new environmental permit. This is the logical next step following the final approval of the FSAB RSDP earlier this year by the entire Flemish Government and the previous positive advice of the highest Flemish Environmental Administration (GMVC). The presentation of the new environmental permit by Minister Schauvliege is thus in line with the expectations and the continuation of consistent policy.
4. New building permit expected by the end of 2016
On Tuesday, 5 July 2016 the building permit of Uplace was unfortunately withdrawn by the Coucil of Permit Disputes in Flanders. This decision was entirely in line with the expectations, since the building permit was based on the old Spatial Development Plan (FSAB RSDP), which in the meanwhile has been changed and approved by the entire Flemish Government. The Council of Permit Disputes unfortunately had no other option then to withdraw the building permit since it was based on an old legal base. Given the new FSAB RSDP has been approved earlier this year, we are confident that a new building permit could be presented by the end of 2016.
5. Socio-economic permit is final
Already in 2010 the socio-economic permit was presented. Since the project has already been fully permitted in 2012 and substantial groundworks have started, such as the demolition and remediation of the soiled land, the building permit was implemented. On top of that, the commercialisation of Uplace has accelerated since 2014, resulting in 60% of the total rentable space being leased. Al these elements result in the definitive character of the socio-economic permit.
6. Thorough mobility plan in execution
We have also worked hard on a better accessibility for the entire region. Uplace is fully committed in investing in public transport and there is now absolute certainty about it. The plans of the new train station Machelen Kerklaan, a few meters from Uplace, are permitted and the investment is incorporated in the federal budget. The new train station will transport more than 3.300 commuters, using 4 trains per hour and will thus improve the accessibility of the entire region. On top of that, the Flemish bus company (De Lijn) made its final decision about the high frequency shuttle bus between the IC station of Vilvoorde and Brussels Airport, with several stops in the area and one for Uplace. Uplace will contribute 500.000€ per year for the shuttle bus.
With the permit of the train station and the final approval of De Lijn, the two conditions of the FSAB RSDP are also fulfilled.
On top of that, Uplace is investing 15 million euro on construction works for a better accessibility of the project. A bridge and tunnel will split the through-traffic from the traffic to Uplace. New bicycle- and walking paths on the Woluwelaan will transform the region in a safer environment for cyclers and pedestrians.
Next to that, specific measures were taken for a better infrastructural access of the entire region; the redevelopment of the existing freeway interchange that connects the E19 with the beltway surrounding Brussels. These construction works have started in August 2015 and are in full development. Uplace will also invest in the newest technologies available for a smart parking guiding system.