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The ex-industrial quarter near Esch in Luxembourg is becoming 100% urbanized

The ex-industrial quarter near Esch in Luxembourg is becoming 100% urbanized

The wasteland near Belval-Nord will be redeveloped into approximately 70,000 m2 of living space

The industrial quarter of Belval near the town of Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg is getting a heavy urban makeover. The now-defunct steel plant and surrounding wasteland will be redeveloped into approximately 800,000 m2 of floor space by the year 2027. Agora, the company in charge reported on Monday that within two years the residential part in Belval-Nord, counting with 70,000 m2, should be completed.

A housing solution just within reach

Luxembourg has had a notorious housing affordability problem for years now and the redevelopment of the Belval area comes as a very welcomed breath of fresh air.

The project calls for 100% of the industrial space to become 100% urbanized with a functional mix of working and living. It also envisions the area to be developed in parts, with the northern one being the first.

While Belval holds the possibility for the construction of almost 800,000 m2 of gross floor area, the current plan proposes homes to just 7,000 people and workplaces (offices and craftsmen space) for 20,000 people.

To be specific, the plan relegates half of the 800,000 m2 to housing, with a third of that classified as “affordable”. This is nowhere near the number of living space Luxembourg needs to make a significant impact towards fixing its housing crisis.

At the same time, the new district will have all necessary social services, leisure opportunities, a school, a hospital, and a shopping centre, with everything in Belval made in a way it can be reached by bike.

In Belval-Sud, the construction of another 70,000 m² of floor space is planned, with a strong emphasis on housing with planned structures ranging from classic apartments to single-family homes.

Furthermore, another 450 housing units will be completed over the next 18 months, including around 100 in the 55-meter-high Omnia tower, next to Belvalplaza 1.

From fairy-tale forest to steel foundry to urban quarter

The redevelopment of the ex-industrial wasteland in Belval is part of a trend in post-industrial Europe where large swaths of now-defunct manufacturing quarters are desperately in a need of a new purpose.

The area has a rich history with many twists and turns, and, as its position is in the heart of Europe, it reflects the fluctuations of regional development on the continent.

Before the 1850s’ the forested area between Belvaux and Esch enjoyed a certain mystique, as the site for many fairy-tales and legends and was called “Escher Bësch” or the forest of “Claire Chêne”.

In 1868 lawyer Joseph Steichen discovered a mineral spring with exceptionally good water and started bottling and selling it in Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.  However, “Escher Bësch” was cut down in 1909 to make way for the most modern steelworks of the time. The plant was equipped with blast furnaces, steelworks and rolling mills, enabling all phases of steel production.

Later, in 1953 one of the founding fathers of the European Coal and Steel Community Jean Monnet carried out a symbolic blast furnace tapping there. However, the plant underwent closure in 1993, with the furnaces sold to China. Two years later, 10,000 Chinese workers came and dismantled them.

Then, right after the turn of the century, Agora and the Ministry of the Interior started plans to convert the area into an urban centre. Currently, the end date sits somewhere in 2027.

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