Ghent/Brussels February 3rd 2021 – The real estate investor and developer Alides, part of the Ghent family Group Maes, last night signed a 20-year usufruct with the European Commission for the office part of the Copernicus building in Brussels at 51 Rue de la Loi. This brand new mixed office and apartment building contains over 13 500 m2 of office space and is the first major project to be completed under the Loi/Wet City Project, under the impetus of the Brussels Government.
The European quarter gets a new landmark at a prime location
"The Copernicus building is one of Alides' crown jewels, which we have had in our portfolio for over 20 years," says CEO Rikkert Leeman. “The agreement that has just been concluded guarantees a stable revenue stream that will provide a foundation for future investments, including more in the capital.”
Copernicus is located in the heart of the European district, at the intersection of the Rue de la Loi and the Rue de la Science. The new landmark has 14 storeys with a floor area of almost 15,000 m2. This makes it one of the largest completed and commercialized real estate projects in Brussels in 2021. By comparison, a total of just over 100 000 m2 of office space was put into use in the European quarter in 2020, with the stand-out building being The One (29 241m2) which the European Commission now also occupies.
The project was developed in close consultation with the Brussels government as part of the Loi/Wet City Project of perspective.brussels.
"What’s crucial in the renovation is that with Copernicus we have taken an important step in breaking the so-called canyoning of the Wetstraat/Rue de la Loi – the feeling of being trapped when you walk or drive through it,” says Leeman. “Copernicus looks very light and transparent and symbolises the renewed urban fabric of the European quarter.”
From the road, passers-by have a view of a green esplanade with many trees. This contributes to a feeling of openness and to an increased quality of the public domain of the Wetstraat. Also striking for the building are the large terraces on the 6th and 7th floor that are visible from the street.
"Copernicus breaks with the monofunctionality of the Rue de la Loi. It is the first project that radically ensures that, in addition to the many office spaces, there will be more people living in the district,” adds Leeman. “Along the side of the Rue de la Science, twelve spacious apartments equipped with terraces overlook the courtyard garden.” Alides is responsible for the rental and management of these apartments. As they are separated from the office part, they fall outside the usufruct with the European Commission.
The building will be completed on 30 June 2021. In all likelihood, the first European officials will move into the building in early September.
BREEAM Excellent label: crucial in the context of the Green Deal
Designed by Brussels architecture firm LD2, the Copernicus building meets the criteria of the coveted BREEAM Excellent label.
"Sustainability was key in the design and elaboration. The materials were chosen on the basis of durability and their ecological performance,” says CEO Rikkert Leeman. “With the exception of the subsoil, all structural elements were prefabricated, which guarantees a fast and efficient construction process. Many building materials are also cradle-to-cradle. In addition to the spacious green areas, sustainable mobility was also taken into account.”
With the commissioning of Copernicus, the European Commission is responding to its ambition in terms of sustainability and the vision to switch to a new, modern office infrastructure.
European institutions remain the engine for the office market in Brussels
With this agreement, Alides proves that there is still room for qualitative growth in the Brussels office market.
"I am convinced that the fact that Alides is still a strong family holding company allows us to opt for sustainable long-term projects," says Leeman.
The company, originally from Ghent, remains committed to investing in strategic top locations in the capital. The demand for quality is still strong. European institutions are estimated to be looking for between 80 000 and 1 000 m² of quality office space by 2024 -2025.
The total capacity of the European quarter is 3.37 million m2, with a very low vacancy rate of 2.9%. Today's EU accounts for 1.8 million m2. Prime rent of € 300 per square meter on an annual basis guarantees a very healthy return, according to a report from CBRE.
"Once again, we have succeeded in developing the building qualitatively to ensure an optimal rental yield. After all, we believe that continuing investment in top quality, especially at this AAA location, is the best recipe for sustainable returns," says Leeman.
"This agreement is crucial for the growth of Alides. The European Commission is a stable partner and this agreement guarantees us a steady stream of income that allows us to further develop our vision," he concludes. The company has announced that it will soon announce new Brussels and foreign acquisitions.
After acquiring the EFTA building in the European quarter, this is another important step for Alides in acquiring, innovating and making strategic locations in the capital more sustainable.
Cooperation with various partners
The agreement with the European Commission came about in close cooperation with broker CBRE and BNP Paribas Fortis bank.
"We are very happy that we were able to accompany Alides in this beautiful deal. This proves that the office market remains dynamic for high-quality buildings, even in the current circumstances," says Didier Snyers d'Attenhoven, head of Real Estate Finance Belgium at BNP Paribas Fortis.
"This agreement makes it clear that the European institutions attach great importance to a building that has several advantages: good energy performance, flexibility that allows different types of spaces to be integrated, and the use of high-quality finishing materials that contribute to the comfort of the end user. These elements contributed to the agreement between the European Commission and Alides," says Jean-Michel Meersseman, Senior Director at CBRE.