NMBS/SNCB sells its office complexes at Brussels South

Belgian railway NMBS/SNCB is looking for a buyer for four office complexes at Brussels South, or Brussels-Midi station, representing 150,000 square meters, writes the business newspaper De Tijd.

Usually, the consortium that may build the railway company’s new headquarters on the site of NMBS/SNCB’s buildings on Avenue Fonsny would take over the site. The sale of the four sites partly offset the investment represented by the development of the new headquarters, but that deal is thus not going ahead.

Deal falls through

With the public sale procedure, NMBS/SNCB is taking a very different decision than originally planned. Indeed, the redevelopment of the sites was initially supposed to be done by a consortium that included Besix, BPC/BPI (two subsidiaries of CFE), and Immobel.

That group will also build the railway company’s new headquarters at the back of Brussels-Midi station, where all the management of NMBS/SNCB and subsidiary HR Rail will be clustered. The award of that contract in 2020 was linked to acquiring the four sites, with which NMBS/SNCB wanted to partly finance its headquarters.

Office buildings and car parks

The sites in question are the France-Bara complex on Rue de France, the triangular Atrium office building on Avenue de Porte de Halle, and the two connected Delta-Zennewater office buildings. Bids can be made on one, two, or all the properties involved in the sale.

The France-Bara real estate complex, with a plus-minus 73,000 m² floor area, consists of 12 buildings and several car parks and is mainly suitable for office use. The Office building Atrium offers an area of 48,870 m² divided over 15 floors. Finally, Delta-Zennewater has 27,000 m² and comprises two communicating office buildings and two car parks.

Interested parties can submit bids for the office complexes until 3 September, according to NMBS/SNCB’s real estate website.

View of the new headquarters of the NMBS/SNCB with the France-Bara complex, the triangular building at the top center.

Stalled real estate market

It is unclear why the deal was adjusted, but according to De Tijd, the consortium is no longer interested in the four sites. For instance, the 2020 calculations at the time of the deal are no longer realistic due to the sharply increased construction costs and the stalled real estate market.

At the same time, the construction of the new headquarters has been considerably delayed, and the consortium may also have been put off by the complexities involved in redeveloping the South neighborhood. Initially, the plan was to bring together the more than 4,000 concerned NMBS/SNCB and HR Rail employees in the new building by the end of 2024.

The project received planning permission from the Brussels Region in 2022 despite a negative opinion from the Sint-Gillis municipality. In February last year, some residents, supported by the collective “Midi Moins Une!, also went to the Council of State against the permit, which has not yet ruled.

They consider the NMBS/SNCB project disproportionate. At 60 meters, it is 19 meters taller than the current buildings on Avenue Fonsny, which have also been empty for more than 20 years. The new headquarters will also extend the existing 30 000 m² to 75,000 m². NMBS/SNCB hopes to start the renovations by the end of 2024, which would last three years.


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