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Sainte-Catherine pedestrian project ‘useless’ says Royal Commission for Monuments and Sites
A total redevelopment of Rue Sainte-Catherine in Brussels, aimed at increasing greenery and making the space pedestrian friendly, is facing a backlash from the Royal Commission for Monuments and Sites (CRMS).
CRMS issued an unfavourable opinion on the planned works, which are under public enquiry until 19 May, RTBF reports.
They say the works are unnecessary: “The proposed interventions do not seem essential to transform this road into a pedestrian area, which has historically been used as a shared space and has remained perfectly adapted to this purpose if the road and pavements are used as a multi-functional space.”
CRMS says pedestrianising the street in its current form could be done more logically by simply barring off the street.
Rue Sainte-Catherine became a pedestrian zone in August 2020, when the city prohibited motorised traffic except for deliveries to shops, which must take place between 4:00 and 11:00.
“But the current layout of the street still corresponds to its former use, with a ground surface that is not very comfortable for cyclists and pedestrians, and a difference in level in height between the road and the pavement,” authorities said in their justification for the renovation works.
But CRMS says the street was already renovated 15 years ago according to the principles of the ‘Chemins de la Ville’, an operation started in the 1990s whose approach entails minimal development based on an aesthetic of simplicity in relation to the existing historical framework.
The commission says it cannot understand why these 15-year-old developments are already giving way to new things. They cite concerns including “cost, sustainability and quality of life in the city centre”.
“Especially since Rue Sainte-Catherine, like other roads subject to the same regime, is not in a worrying state of conservation. The commission therefore hopes that the authorities will focus on continuity and on maintaining and enhancing the traditional street.”
They and others, like head of traders association Wouter Vermeulen, say a simple touch-up could achieve the same goals.
“I know that the idea is to redevelop the street like the others around it, in connection with the pedestrianisation of the city centre, but as the work was done in our street not so long ago, I really wonder if it is necessary to redo everything,” he said.
“I'm wondering about the cost, the budget, when I think simple touch-ups would be sufficient. It's an expense that raises questions, especially after the Covid-19 crisis we've been through.”
The renovation project would include nine bicycle hoops, a work of art (‘Casse-toi pauvre canard’ by artist Sven't Jolle) and street furniture. CRMS says these works would “remove the identity features of the old 'steenweg', the main historical road that has crossed Brussels since the Middle Ages, and which is lined with numerous heritage assets.”
The City of Brussels has read CRMS’ opinion, but emphasised that it “is not binding,” that the area in question is not classified as historical, and that the project is still under public enquiry for another two weeks or so.
If and when a permit for the project is received, construction work will begin and is expected to last 100 days.
Photo: courtesy Google