Isidore Zielonka, of Aukett Europe’s Belgian office, Art + Build, says Brussels is continuing to develop in much the same way as it has for the past 30 years, thanks to the ever-growing multitude of Eurocrats. As a result, Brussels’ office market has seen little of the volatility that has afflicted Paris and London over that period.
“Everything is steady, going well, with the expectation that there will be a boom next year as the EU grows further,” he says.
The trend for Brussels-based businesses to relocate to the city’s eastern outskirts near Waterloo has abated lately as road congestion has forced companies back into the city centre. This has prompted more fit-out and refurbishment work.
Jérôme Dauzet, managing director of Bovis Lend Lease France and Belgium, says breaking into the Belgian construction management and project management market has proved difficult. “Local firms tend to dominate but it is all about educating clients that there is another way rather than relying on architects or engineers for advice,” he says. “We are now getting that message across.”
Outside Brussels it is quieter, with activity mainly centred on the industrial north near Antwerp. This area is increasing becoming a centre for pan-European pharmaceutical and IT companies’ warehouses, factories and call centres. Belgian pharmaceutical company Janssen has also announced that it is spending £65m on two laboratories in Beerse, north-east of Antwerp.
The largest Belgian contractors are SBB and Vinci-owned CFE with turnovers of £555m and £492m respectively.
Meanwhile, Luxembourg is capitalising on its position as the printing centre for the euro and is fast becoming a financial centre. It
has plans to increase its population from 500,000 to 700,000 over the next 20 years, guaranteeing a housing boom. Zielonka says the office market is tight, which will ensure more development over the next three years.