'Experience shopping mall' Uplace in Machelen, just north of Brussels, has been controversial for years. A new name and a complete redesign aim to get the project afloat again, but the classic mall is gone. Instead, the new plans aim for SMEs and more green.
The project will not be akin to Uplace, not even in a 'light' version, says Alexander D'Hooghe. The man who was appointed to reconcile all the stakeholders has chosen for a historical name for the site, Broek (swamp). The whole approach has been changed: a "living together project" rather than a real estate project, reducing the surface for classical retail by half and replacing the classic American-style mall with 'guild houses', where people of the same trade will join in for example a House of Food or a House of Textile.
Aiming to relieve the pressure on the surroundings, the Broeksite project aims to attract everything in a small scale. Makers' stores should attract craftsmen who make products in small numbers, small entrepreneurs will take up space as well and rather than hotels, D'Hooghe aims for high-quality living spaces. The only thing big in the new project would be the central park. Better public transport links and bicycle paths should further reduce the number of visitors coming by car.
Real estate company Uplace, initiator of the eponymous project, is concerned about the economic viability of the project. The company wants to give the new Broeksite project a chance however, if it can be guaranteed that the other stakeholders are all aboard on the project and no new judicial procedures are to follow. "We have already invested 90 million euros in our project", CEO Jan Van Lancker says, "and we will lose most of it because this is a completely new project."
He points to the long procedures that brought the orignal project to a standstill, as a range of environmental organisations, associations of entrepreneurs and surrounding cities (like Leuven, Mechlin and Vilvoorde) continued protesting with almost every means to their disposal.