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Flanders fuels the trend of conversions of obsolete vacant offices into residential

Image of 't'Eilandje: Antwerp
Image of 't'Eilandje: Antwerp

Most of the talk in terms of converting obsolete office buildings into housing concerns Brussels. But real estate advisor JLL has been looking at this phenomenon as it affects Flanders as well. The population of Antwerp, it says, is rising: currently in the commune of Antwerp there are 524,000 inhabitants against 446,000 in 2000 (Source: Federal Service of Domestic Affairs) and there is a shortage of quality housing, especially at an affordable price.

The City of Antwerp therefore favours new residential developments but available land is scarce, fuelling the trend of conversions of obsolete vacant offices into residential, or the switch of land previously aimed at office developments to housing projects.
The best example in JLL’s eyes is in ‘t’Eilandje along the Schelde river: former offices or abandoned industrial sites are being redeveloped, Cores has recently purchased the Friendship Building along the Rijnkaai and is launching an architectural contest for a residential project.
A surprising reversal of history is that in Antwerp, some projects of office conversions into residential are conditional on maintaining a minimal part of offices in the building.

Ghent is not immune to the reconversion trend either, in a recent analysis JLL identified 15 – of which 12 in the Centre – former office buildings converted into residential or other uses, for a total amount of c. 36,000 sq.m., the largest of which is the Kouter 150 (former headquarters of Fortis, approx. 6,500 sq.m.) that has recently been completed as a high quality apartment building.

Similarly, Leuven is redeveloping former industrial sites along the water and creating new mixed districts which respond to high quality requirements.
AG Real Estate is currently developing residential buildings on one side of the Vaartkom (‘Twee Waters’), while on the other side Immobel is redeveloping the old breweries of AB Inbev into residential units and mixed buildings such as De Silo’s that comprises a portion of offices in which media company De Chinezen has taken 2,586 sq.m.
Tim Harrup
05-10-2018


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