The great fantasy of empty offices in Brussels - Trends-Tendances sur PC

The great fantasy of empty offices in Brussels – Immo

Of the million square meters of empty offices in Brussels, 80% cannot be converted into housing, according to a study by perspectives.brussels. A conclusion that reshuffles many cards. New and affordable real estate is becoming the preferred way to solve the housing crisis.

The future of office buildings in Brussels has raised questions of all kinds in recent months. And they are sometimes contradictory. Today there are more than one million square meters unoccupied. A relatively stable stock over the last decade but which could increase somewhat following the widespread use of teleworking. And at the same time, the demand from companies or public institutions for redesigned and sustainable offices is not empty. However, with a problem: demand and supply do not meet, for reasons of location (proximity to stations is preferred) or offices deemed obsolete and unsuitable. Real estate developers will therefore always have to get their hands on new buildings to develop. While at the same time, the stock of inadequate offices will only grow.

The future of office buildings in Brussels has raised questions of all kinds in recent months. And they are sometimes contradictory. Today there are more than one million square meters unoccupied. A relatively stable stock over the last decade but which could increase somewhat following the widespread use of teleworking. And at the same time, the demand from companies or public institutions for redesigned and sustainable offices is not empty. However, with a problem: demand and supply do not meet, for reasons of location (proximity to stations is preferred) or offices deemed obsolete and unsuitable. Real estate developers will therefore always have to get their hands on new buildings to develop. While at the same time, the stock of inadequate offices will only grow. So what to do with this stock of vacant and obsolete offices? Perspectives.brussels has looked into the subject and analyzed the conversion potential of the million square meters of office space currently unoccupied in Brussels. It shows that the usual discourses put forward by certain politicians, citizens or associations to oppose new projects or the urbanization of certain wastelands do not hold water: first convert the stock of empty offices into housing to resolve the crisis housing and coping with the expected demographic increase will not resolve the equation. Far from there. The potential for retraining is even largely insufficient. After a careful analysis, perspectives.brussels notes that only 35 buildings out of 314 are completely empty and can be converted. That is a total of 197,531 m2. Except that, and this is where it gets even more complicated, the majority of these buildings are already the subject of a rehabilitation project. And in many cases, the office function is maintained. Only a handful of buildings therefore remain off the radar of developers. Which is never a good sign, moreover. empty building is not automatically likely to be converted and, if necessary, not necessarily immediately. Solving the housing crisis therefore inevitably involves the creation of new housing. And this within the framework of well-thought-out projects , mixed and well integrated into their environment.” To arrive at this amount of 200,000 m2, the authors of the study subtracted a whole series of buildings which cannot be reconverted. Namely offices which are located in houses and apartments (82,442 m2) and whose co-ownership regime complicates the idea of ​​conversion, buildings less than five years old and whose conversion is deemed premature (259,406 m2) or those located in industrial or industrial zones (67,684 m2). Finally, of the remaining 592,564 m2, it is still necessary to remove the buildings which are not entirely empty. And following that, we then go directly below the 200,000 m2 mark. “Carrying out a reconversion if only six floors out of twelve are vacant, it takes a lot of time or it is even impossible, points out Antoine de Borman. And many office buildings are in this situation in Brussels.” It should be noted that in the stock of buildings that could be converted, there are mainly areas between 10,000 and 15,000 m2 and buildings of 20,000 m2. The vacancy occurs mainly in the east of the Pentagon, in the northern district and around the Gare du Midi. However, given the expected annual growth of 2,500 households over the next 10 years, this convertible stock does not even represent a tenth of the effort required to meet housing needs (250,000 m2 annually). Other avenues will therefore have to be explored, including the one leading to the production of new housing. And all the more so since the conversion is estimated by perspectives.brussels as much more expensive for real estate players and rarely compatible with a good quality of life for the occupants. The reconversion of buildings built over the last 20 or 30 years was never anticipated during their design. “Given the preference given in recent years to very large office floors, many constructions are often very deep: 20 meters and more. This leads to the development of narrow, dark or single-oriented apartments. Which is far from ‘to be ideal.’ For their part, public actors such as citydev.brussels do not want to hear about it given the cost and complexity of such operations. Whereas in certain districts such as the European district, the strong demand for offices means that reconversions will not be favored by private actors. Only strong public intervention could change the situation. “In the European district, the owners quickly understood that the Brussels office building market has aged considerably badly and that the demand for new offices has become strong,” explained Philippe Coenraets, a lawyer specializing in property law. audacity therefore consists in reinvesting in the office sector and abandoning, at least in this area, the creation of housing.This means that recent projects for the conversion of empty offices into housing or the creation of new housing in the European district are hardly legion.The enthusiasm of the developers is all the less great as the reconversion projects frequently receive a mixed reception from the issuing authorities, little receptive to the constraints inherent in this type of operation which preserves a building a priori not designed for housing.This is reluctance that contrasts sharply with the enthusiastic political message commonly conveyed by the Brussels government is which ‘pushes’ the creation of housing in this area.” As we have seen, we can already remove recent buildings and buildings whose typology is unsuitable from this total. It is therefore necessary to concentrate more on the 394,450 m2, a vacancy scattered here and there on the floors of the buildings. “The important thing is to ask yourself what is the structural part and what is the cyclical part of the vacancy, specifies Pierre-Paul Verelst, head of research at the commercial real estate adviser JLL. Floors of buildings have been unoccupied for a long time and no longer interest anyone. They are totally off the market. Developers can possibly buy well-located buildings by notifying tenants that they will not be able to extend their lease. A renovation or residential conversion operation can then at this time be recorded. But this requires patience and costs money. The buildings recently sold by Cofinimmo (boulevard de la Woluwe and boulevard du Souverain) fall into this category. But this is not the majority.” In general, the current vacant stock therefore seems incompatible with a reconversion, especially since promoting renovations instead of demolitions/reconstructions seems inappropriate. Starting from a blank page for new buildings by integrating mandatory notions of convertibility as well as circular construction therefore seems more appropriate. “It does indeed seem like an interesting lead, says Antoine de Borman. The carbon cost of a building is essential to take into account. But, in certain cases, if the buildings do not attract any developer or tenant, it might be worth be better off on a good footing.”

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