In Luxembourg large urban projects are designed to incorporate sustainability concepts, but are they truly sustainable in the local urban fabric? If Luxembourg intends to compete for talent on the world stage, mixed-use projects, such as the knowledge hub Belval, are needed, but they must connect with the local communities to be sustainable.

Currently a global specialist in finance, Luxembourg successfully transitioned from an economy based on the steel industry to one of banking. Now the country is developing towards a knowledge-based society with regional and international reach for sustainable economic growth. Previously having no university in the nation, the founding of the University of Luxembourg in 2003 was critical to Luxembourg’s image as an important contributor to global scientific and technological innovations.

Despite the small size of the country in terms of area and population, the synergy created by the cross-border metropolitan region interaction allows Luxembourg to compete on the international stage. At the same time, this heavy interaction between regions causes traffic congestion with more than 150,000 cross-border workers commuting in and out of the city daily from neighboring countries. The large number of commuters is partially due to a shortage of affordable housing as office buildings have taken priority. Prices of rent and housing are about twice as much in Luxembourg compared to in border countries.

In the context of rapid urban growth worldwide, Luxembourgian government and city officials are implementing ambitious, integrated planning and development in the form of large-scale urban projects. A prominent example is Kirchberg, a 365-hectare urban project located in the north-eastern part of Luxembourg City. It is an office town that includes many European Union institutions, international banks and investment funds, and a world-class museum of modern art designed by I.M. Pei.

Kirchberg has become a template for national urban planning and development. In order to decentralize from the capital area, other current projects include a Nordstad master plan for the rural area in the north and Belval in the southwest on the border with France.

The Belval Urban Renewal Project

In a region 20 kilometers from Luxembourg City that was suffering from industrial decline and economic depression, the Belval acheter du cialis en ligne mixed-use urban renewal project aims to revitalize the industrial wasteland on the brown field of a former steel factory complex through a public-private partnership.

The Belval project is only 500 meters from the French border and 3 kilometers from Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg’s second largest city with a population of about 30,000. The 120-hectare site of Belval is planned for 5,000 inhabitants and 20,000 employees with public investment of almost €1 billion.

The 20-year master plan consists of five sections: Square Mile, Belval-Nord, Süd-Belval, Belval Park, and Cité des Sciences. Square Mile will consist of offices, shops, and apartments, while Belval-Nord and Süd-Belval will be exclusively residential.

The Cité des Sciences (City of Science) is planned around historic Belval landmarks, including two blast furnaces from the 1970s, which will be preserved to provide a connection to the region’s industrial history. The 27-hectare science park features a new campus of the University of Luxembourg along with other research institutions, offices, public buildings, sport facilities, and a concert hall. The university will be an anchor for the project as well as a partner for community cohesion and a major employer that will drive demand for local goods and services.

Sustainability of Belval and Large Urban Projects

Sustainability is a main consideration of the Belval project. The German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) awarded the Pre-certificate in Gold to the development company, Agora, a public-private partnership made up of the Luxembourg government and Arbed, the steel company that owned the industrial sites on which Belval will be built.

The award recognizes good design solution, including mixed-use, connection to existing districts, quality of traffic systems, and reduction of pollutant emissions and energy costs. Fonds Belval, the public agency managing the financing and construction of the public buildings, will integrate energy management in the architectural design by taking into consideration building orientation, material selection, and the use of technology that harnesses renewable energy.

In terms of access, Belval is easily reachable by car or train with optimized connections to nearby urban areas. With strict and reduced parking spaces and improved connection with the railway network, the project aims for 60% motorized traffic and 40% public transit or non-motorized traffic. A new train station, Belval-Université, was built to further promote public transit. The university campus in particular is planned to discourage motorized traffic with an emphasis on cycling and walking as it consists of narrow streets and a high density of buildings rather than wide avenues.

While the project certainly promotes green building and a circular economy, Belval could be too large to properly integrate into the local urban fabric, which could result in enclave urbanism. Kirchberg is already considered an urban island that is tightly linked with global business entities but not with the local community. Flawed urbanism could also result as the projects focus on office buildings and laboratory space rather than housing partially due to the borrowed-size from the commuting population.

Luxembourg’s rural developments prove that large urban projects are certainly not limited to major metropolitan centers. If Luxembourg intends to attract talent in order to develop a knowledge hub to stimulate growth and diversify the economy, large-scale urbanism will be expected by sophisticated urbanites seeking the trappings of modern city living.

However, large urban projects must sustainably tie into the local socioeconomic fabric. For example, if the Belval campus is well-integrated, graduates of the university may stay in the area and revitalize the region, and student and employee housing could be used to link the neighboring city of Esch-sur-Alzette. Sustainability cannot be understood purely in the sense of self-sufficiency, as cultivating a strong connection with the surrounding communities is critical for a project’s success.