Residential projects are finally multiplying in Liège. But to become an attractive city again, economic development will have to be further supported. This will notably involve the rehabilitation of its many wastelands. Seraing is a good example
They share the same desire to contribute to the renewal of Liège. One, Valérie Depaye, is leading the redevelopment of Seraing within the autonomous municipal authority Eriges, responsible for supporting the master plan which is to put this former industrial city back on the investors’ map. The other, Frédéric Driessens, runs Noshaq Immo, the real estate subsidiary of the Noshaq group. It supports and develops real estate projects that provide added value to the ecosystems of the parent company.
They share the same desire to contribute to the renewal of Liège. One, Valérie Depaye, is leading the redevelopment of Seraing within the autonomous municipal authority Eriges, responsible for supporting the master plan which is to put this former industrial city back on the investors’ map. The other, Frédéric Driessens, runs Noshaq Immo, the real estate subsidiary of the Noshaq group. It supports and develops real estate projects that provide added value to the ecosystems of the parent company. TRENDS-TRENDS. It has long been said that the immobility experienced by the City of Liège in recent years has enabled entities such as Herstal, Seraing or Ans to develop more quickly than expected. Do you share this observation? VALERIE DEPAYE. No. It is a fragmented vision of the territory. It makes no sense to carve out a territory where we have a built and economic continuum. Moreover, I have never noticed any immobility on the side of Liège. The investments made there benefit an entire region. This has also helped to draw attention to the entire periphery. Our joint presence at Mipim has also proven for many years that we have an overall vision for the entire Liège basin. It makes no sense to oppose us. Everyone has their ambitions. We can however recognize in Seraing that it has taken a unique approach on the scale of Wallonia by developing, in 2006, a strategy for the rehabilitation of some of its industrial wastelands. FREDERIC DRIESSENS. I see more difference in the development of the three arrondissements than within the arrondissement of Liège itself. This is an observation that questions us, moreover, particularly at Noshaq. We are much too focused on Liège at the moment. In the future, the objective is to be able to carry out the same type of projects in all the territories of the province. New residential projects are beginning to multiply in the heart of the Ardent City. Have we reached a “momentum” on this plan? FD What has changed is that we finally have a series of national investors developing projects in Liège. Previously, there were only people from Liège. This multiplies the possibilities. VD There is now a strategic vision. Something that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Promoters have understood this and appreciate this situation. We thus note the arrival of capital and private ideas which then fit into a clear urban vision. FD It’s actually our role as facilitators at Noshaq. So that landowners stop waiting and can embark on urban revitalization operations. Because the overall idea behind this approach is that attracting a new population will attract workers and students. This will also allow businesses to restart. Because it must be noted, the cities are not doing well. The appointment of a bouwmeester appears in the general policy statement of the City of Liège. Do we need a new pilot on the plane? FD Indeed. It must bring together supply and demand. It must give the possibility of determining the needs according to the locations. Enough to allow landowners and investors to have a clear course of action. VD A bouwmeester on the scale of the metropolis could be interesting, at least in the administrative phases. Today, many authorities must be consulted, it would be good if the administrative path were more holistic and not successive. The challenge of this decompartmentalized approach is particularly glaring for the reconversion of iron and steel sites: soil depollution, possible heritage conservation, present and future biodiversity, demerger and even tourism. However, it is urgent that these large areas be carriers of economic, urban and natural life. They are, in my opinion, the keys to the redeployment of Liège. How has the pandemic changed your approach to town planning and the Liège real estate market? FD The impact has been significant. For residential, the market will now be much more oriented towards services. The inhabitant will seek to have easy access to a series of services that can be pooled and shared, such as terraces, meeting rooms, sports halls, laundries, etc. These new ways of living will clearly impact the residential approach. VD And only the city can offer these local services. I think that, in the end, they will emerge strengthened from this episode. We are now seeing a demand for outdoor spaces. What was not imposed before is now unavoidable. Moreover, if a series of complementary and shared services are part of a project, this makes it possible to offer smaller, and therefore less expensive, apartments. For the rest, I think we also need to improve the quality of public spaces. New projects must be open to their environment. To hear you, we are tending towards an increasingly large segmentation of the market… VD Yes, on many points. In terms of accessibility to housing, you also have to be very careful. The market is tense both on the rental and acquisition level. FD The issue of energy performance is enormous and will also create divisions. There are major questions about the ability of owners to renovate their property. Most can’t afford it. It will therefore be necessary to find different models, which will make it possible to pool energy management. Which district of Liège will undergo the most significant transformation in the coming years? FD Ten years ago, I bet on the Grand Léopold district. It was obvious to me. La Grande Poste is today the spearhead of this revitalization. For the rest, what will develop very well is Coronmeuse with the major Rives Ardentes project. As well as the different developments between Coronmeuse and Léopold. Like En Neuvice or Saint-Léonard. The districts will in any case develop in the continuity of the Meuse and the route of the tram. VD I think the Ougrée Meuse district will have a bright future. There will soon be a new offer of accommodation for students and young adults. This will change the appearance of the neighborhood. We have a pre-existing building that is just waiting to be renovated in the coming years. It would be a good place to invest. It is located near the train station, the tram will arrive right in front. Strategically, it’s ideal. The arrival of the tram in Jemeppe, the City’s projects there to pacify the highway and encourage other types of mobility also constitute a great area of future opportunities. The transformation of Seraing is accelerating, with quality facilities and public spaces. On the other hand, the new residential supply remains lower. Do you have any fears at this level? VD No, because the announcements on this subject will follow one another. The municipal authorities have decided to concentrate on the flagship projects and to turn off the tap on the outskirts somewhat. More and more developers are knocking on our door. Whereas before, they looked at us a little with a smile. How is the residential component shaping up? VD At Gastronomia, there will be 150 housing units by 2024 or 2025. They will be part of the large shopping center project dedicated to the food sector planned on the site of the former Cockerill factory. Work will begin in May (Thomas & Piron, Franki, I-Magix and Willemen). For the 300 student accommodation planned in the park of Trasenter castle, Xior and Cordeel are in charge. Delivery is scheduled for 2024. For blast furnace 6, there is talk of 750 housing units but it won’t be before 2030 or 2035. However, the key to the redevelopment of Seraing is not the residential aspect but the economic aspect. Today, we no longer have a single space to offer investors who come to see us. And this, while we have 130 ha of industrial wastelands. What is your view on the rehabilitation of the wastelands of Arcelor Mittal (280 ha), for which the TER agency has drawn up a master plan? The stakes are enormous… FD They are all important. There is a real need to attract economic activity. And the assignment of wasteland to this function is essential. Especially since these sites are extremely well located. Every week, companies have to leave Liège or cannot come to Liège for lack of space to build their factory. It is not normal. For wastelands, Noshaq will position itself as a programmer. This type of project is very tedious and time-consuming. What inspires you in these urban revitalizations? VD The satisfaction of seeing your territory evolve. For Seraing, the master plan dates back more than 15 years. Today we made very good progress. Conversely, the Arcelor sites have changed little. It is a problem. FD As soon as we find a place to rehabilitate, the objective is henceforth to see the file materialize quickly. The wait is over. We can no longer afford it. Moreover, currently, for lack of agreement, we must turn to the rehabilitation of private wasteland, which is paradoxical. Last thing: how will the arrival of the tram, as well as its extension to Seraing and Herstal, change your approach to urban development? VD This changes everything! For the extension, the 130 million of the recovery plan are included in the budget. This extension is an additional means to add to the hierarchy of travel modes. The tram will arrive in Seraing by 2026 when we already have train stops, two of which are integrated into the Liège express network, a cycle network and a very good bus offer. This multimodal offer is an undeniable asset in our redeployment. FD And then, in general, this will above all also make it possible to reduce the presence of the car in town. Building parking spaces in real estate projects becomes less essential. Few really realize the qualitative impact of the arrival of the tram. However, it will influence the entire city project.