The old barracks are being given a permanently new future. Usquare.brussels, the redevelopment program for the former Fritz Toussaint barracks in Ixelles, has passed an important milestone: the Brussels-Capital Region has issued the planning permits for the first two operations to redevelop emblematic buildings on the site.
The first permit has been issued to the Urban Development Company (sau-msi.brussels) for the renovation and conversion of the former riding school of the gendarmerie school into a hall for sustainable food. The second permit was issued to the universities ULB and VUB for the renovation and conversion of the buildings along the Generaal Jacqueslaan into university facilities and residences.
Both of these operations are part of the global reconversion project of the former gendarmerie school coordinated by the MSI. They contribute to the revaluation of the site’s heritage and to the circular economy strategy, two essential elements in the development of Usquare.brussels.
In addition to the budgets made available by the Brussels-Capital Region and by the universities ULB and VUB, these two projects also receive significant support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which is funded equally by the European Union and the Brussels Region:
- 1,391,398.10 euros for the reconversion of the Riding School
- 9,033,200 euros for the reconversion of the buildings along the Generaal Jacqueslaan.
The presentation of both urban planning permits is thus the first milestone in the development of the barracks site, first and foremost through the renovation of the Manege, but also through the renovation of the university facilities through the Usquare.brussels project, which is jointly managed by the VUB and the ULB. The Brussels Region has the ambition to develop a multifunctional exemplary neighbourhood here, not only at a technical level (circular economy, energy performance, heritage, etc.) but also at a social level. It is also worth noting that 3,000 tons of CO2 will be saved annually thanks to the works financed by the ERDF program.
The university pool is becoming highly innovative and provides:
- an international research center: the first institute for advanced studies in Belgium (intended for international researchers)
- a space for “Citizen and Participative Science”
- an international home
- an inter-university research center for “Urban Research”.
Rudi Vervoort, Prime Minister of the Brussels-Capital Region noted: «The role of the ERDF is once again crucial for the territorial redevelopment strategy in Brussels as it allows the financing of the first redevelopment phase of the Barracks site, with its strong presence of university, partial and collective facilities. Our ambition is to transform a historically closed and walled site into an open and mixed new neighborhood with a strong university and international impact that is both sustainable and innovative. This dynamic, convivial place must meet the needs of the people of Brussels and certainly of the local residents, and at the same time provide space for an ambitious large-scale project that the ULB and the VUB have worked together on. »
“With the granting of these permits, we are helping the transformation of our city. A new life is developing on the site of the former barracks. With the construction of houses, a university research center and a food hall, we demonstrate the importance of mixed functionality. Just as with the temporary occupation, SeeU, which is a great success.”Pascal Smet, Secretary of State for the Brussels Region responsible for Urban Planning
Annemie Schaus, Rector of ULB shared her views: “On the Usquare site, the ULB and the VUB are concretising their dynamic partnership for the benefit of Brussels and its inhabitants. Thanks to the support of the ERDF, our two universities will develop research centers there that focus on the issue. sustainable development, making it possible to respond concretely to the challenges that arise in the urban environment, especially in Brussels. We will also welcome several hundred international students to this site, making it a center of welcome and cultural diversity is becoming.”
Caroline Pauwels, the Rector of the VUB shared her enthusiasm with these permits – “With Usquare we want to demolish walls sustainably. Between researchers and students from VUB, ULB and from all over the world, but also locally, between the universities and the residents of the neighborhood. Our ambition is to make Usquare a connecting university district. With the planned housing for students, researchers and guest lecturers, we want to expand Usquare into an international hub, where researchers can meet in a stimulating environment. With these permits we can take the next step to realize this ambition. ”
Usquare.brussels: the reconversion of the former Fritz Toussaint barracks into an open and multifunctional neighborhood
The site of the Fritz Toussaint barracks, which covers an area of 3.85 hectares, on which there are a total of 22 buildings with a total surface of 56,500 m2, is owned by the Brussels-Capital Region, which acquired it from the Federal State at the beginning of 2018. Originally it was a school that provided training and shelter for gendarmes. The site is part of a set of barracks dating back to the early twentieth century on the axis also known as the “Military avenues”. After the police reform and the disappearance of the gendarmerie, the buildings were taken into use by the federal police, which gradually moved away.
The Brussels regional government has entrusted the Urban Development Company (MSI) with ensuring that the reconversion of the former barracks runs smoothly. This project, which has been given the name Usquare.brussels, aims to transform a historically closed and walled site into an open, mixed and dynamic new city district with a cozy, university and international, sustainable and innovative character, which meets the needs of the people of Brussels and certainly local residents and at the same time an ambitious large-scale international project that ULB and VUB jointly manage and that is committed to sustainable development.
The MSI is the regional public institution responsible for the implementation of major Brussels urban development projects (Usquare.brussels, mediapark.brussels, Josaphat …) and the realization of public facilities with a regional appearance (media house FRAME, fire stations, Hippodrome, the LE CHAT comic museum…).
The role of the MSI for this former military complex consists more specifically in:
- to organize a transitional occupation under the name See U: it was inaugurated in 2019 and with 30,000 m2 it is the largest temporary occupation in Belgium with around 100 users and where more than 200 activities took place with more than 80,000 visitors;
- opening the site towards the city and reconnecting it with the surrounding neighborhoods;
- develop housing for families (maximum 20,000 m2 for +/- 170 units) and student housing (maximum 18,000 m2);
- to create 18,000 m2 of livable public spaces, including green space;
- to accommodate a pioneer project (an innovative university pool) of the ULB and the VUB dedicated to sustainable development (7,000 m2 of university facilities) with support from the ERDF;
- Establishing neighborhood facilities that are accessible to local residents, including a hall for sustainable food in the former Manege (1,400 m2);
- to revalue the heritage;
- develop an optimal energy strategy and a circular economy approach at site scale;
More info: https://usquare.brussels
Source: VUB press