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Belgian capital hopes for high street revolution with “Brussels Champs-Elysees”

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The Belgian capital is trying to replicate the success of France’s Champs-Elysées through a €10 million project to transform its commercial district.

Brussels authorities plan to reorganise the zone on the Gulden Vlies and Waterlooplaan between Naamespoort and Luiza. The government sourced ideas through an international competition launched in 2016 and consulted with experts, citizens and local businesses to develop them.

The aim is to transform an area currently dominated by traffic, will now provide more places for walking, adding new city furniture and greenery as well as more appealing lighting. The amount of parking above ground will be dramatically reduced to free up space.

Initiatives include the separation of traffic coming to the area with transit traffic which is passing through on the way to another destination. There is a special dedicated area for retail deliveries.

Work on the project will start in the second half of 2020.

Brussels’s minister of mobility and public works, Pascal Smet, said: “The Gulden Vlieslaan and Waterloolaan are a symbol of luxury and prestige in our capital, but today look more like a motorway and an open-air parking than a promenade with luxury shops where visitors can stroll and relax.

“The project that the agencies Bruno Fortier, Polo and Arcadis designed after an international architecture competition wants to breathe new life into this strategic and emblematic space on the Kleine Ring.

“A high-quality and attractive public space will only attract more visitors to this area and make shopping there even more enjoyable. The Gulden Vlieslaan and the Waterloolaan will get a row of trees on both sides and more greenery, lighting, wide two-way cycle paths and will be largely car-free.”

“Of the 380 parking spaces, above ground 15 are retained. There are 1500 places available in underground car parks in the zone and there are still a lot of underground parking spaces just outside the zone.”

A statement from Met cited the Champs Elysées in Paris as the inspiration for the redevelopment. Paris’s iconic avenue has seen major retailers launching new flagships in recent months.

Galeries Lafayette opened its new 6500 square metre department store on the avenue in March. The location makes use of a bespoke app which helps the store’s 300 personal stylists to offer advice to customers on trends. Each customer has a profile on a central database, meaning that they can have an ongoing relationship with stylists.

IKEA announced earlier this month that it would open a new city centre concept store near the Champs-Elysées.

Another capital considering new policies to renovate its high street is London, where London Mayor Sadiq Khan supported plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street before they were blocked by the local council due to reported unpopularity with residents.

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