Liveable station districts: the cornerstone of the SNCB/NMBS real estate strategy

Tim Harrup

The building of the new SNCB/NMBS headquarters at Brussels South Station clearly demonstrates the public company’s real estate strategy. The stations have a great deal of potential that they want to activate. And projects around stations have become a must for real estate developers. In the Trends report, Cédric Blanckaert, head of commercial activities and of realising the benefits of real estate at the SNCB NMBS explains: “Station districts must become new living districts where as many people as possible can live, work and shop”.

The perfect example is the Brussels South Station district which is being completely redesigned. It will be a mixed area with close to 2,000 dwellings and offices, including Atenor’s Victor tower. A consortium of Besix, BPC-BPI and Immobel will, by 2025, also construct the new headquarters of the SNCB/NMBS. The building will accommodate 4,000 workers including those of their subsidiary HR Rail. To finance this construction, the SNCB/NMBS will sell four disused buildings totalling 200,000 square meters.

The SNCB/NMBS is also to implement this concept of a liveable station district around Mechelen station. They are discussing, together with the city, the development of a mixed-use project with several thousand dwellings and a hotel. The same strategy will apply at the Liège-Guillemins station district for which the SNCB/ NMBS will shortly be launching office and residential projects.

Cédric Blanckaert explains that by densifying the station districts, they will achieve a greater financial return from their properties and stimulate more people to use the railways. With almost 400 commercial concessions in 129 stations and a total surface area of 45,000 square meters, the company is an important player in retail real estate. The SNCB/ NMBS have also announced that a number of plots of land located more than 10 kilometres from a station will be put on sale, and that further communication about this will follow.

Read more in the interview published in Trends magazine [Hoe de NMBS stedenbouwkundige wordt ]