Belgium buys 23 Brussels office buildings from the European Commission with the aim of redeveloping them  

The Belgian government, through its sovereign wealth fund SFPIM, is buying a portfolio of no fewer than 23 office buildings from the European Commission. The Belgian Cityforward fund, set up by SFPIM and Ethias and managed by their Brussels-Antwerp partner Whitewood, will shortly be converting 21 of these buildings in the European Quarter, totalling 300,000 square metres, into 70% sustainable offices and 30% shops, public facilities and, above all, residential units. These additional residential units will eventually double the number of families living in the heart of the European Quarter. From 2028, the first new residents and office workers will be able to move into these premises. 

This transaction is the starting point for a major redevelopment operation that should ultimately, from 2028 onwards, lead to the availability of sustainable offices into which the European institutions will be able to move, thus anchoring them in Brussels for decades to come. ​ ​ 

The European Commission has sold a vast portfolio of 23 buildings to SFPIM. SFPIM in turn sold the 21 buildings in the European Quarter to the Belgian fund Cityforward, with a view to transforming them and redesigning a more sustainable and more vibrant neighbourhood. Two other buildings sold by the European Commission are located outside the European Quarter and are therefore not included in Cityforward. They are being sold to the Vicinity Affordable Housing Fund and to neighbourhood developer Matexi, who will transform them into sustainable and affordable flats for rent and sale. 

The European Commission, SFPIM and Cityforward have agreed a market price of approximately €880 million for the 21 buildings in the European Quarter. This sum is supported by the analyses of two external and independent experts and represents the sole canon of the 99-year long leasehold contracts granted by SFPIM to Cityforward. The Cityforward fund has raised the necessary financial resources with the support of SFPIM, Ethias, finance&, Belfius, Whitewood, ING, KBC, BNP Paribas Fortis, BIL and Helaba. The fund manager is Whitewood AIFM, accredited to administer funds of this size. 

The total cost of the refurbishment work carried out by Whitewood on the buildings is estimated to be of the same scale as that of the acquisition, thus representing a total investment of close to €2 billion. ​ 

The final signature for the sale of the buildings and the increase in Cityforward's capital took place on Monday 29 April 2024.  

‘Sustainable, energy-efficient renovation of buildings is one of the main pillars of SFPIM's energy strategy. For this transformation project, which is unprecedented on this scale, close cooperation and a constructive dialogue between the various parties have been essential factors in achieving success, both the public and regulatory authorities as well as experts and investors. By initiating this dialogue from the outset, we have succeeded in gathering a wide support for the sustainable transformation of obsolete buildings. Through this transformation, we are strengthening our capital's position as the heart of Europe. We are also responding to the strong demand for diversification and additional housing in the European Quarter.’ Laurence Bovy, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of SFPIM 
‘We are extremely enthusiastic about the idea of contributing to the transformation and revitalisation of an area as symbolic for Brussels as the European Quarter. All the more so because this project is multifunctional. On the one hand, it will enable the European Commission to settle permanently in sustainable buildings at the cutting edge of technology. On the other hand, it will encourage the arrival of new residents, thanks to the reintroduction of quality housing at affordable prices and the creation of new services - such as a school and local shops - to meet their needs. This is totally in line with Ethias' values and its desire to be a catalyst for projects that promote a more sustainable society that is committed to future generations.’ - Philippe Lallemand, CEO of Ethias. 
‘This large-scale project respects both social imperatives and economic realities. It inspires us with great confidence in the possibilities offered by our capital. The foundations have been laid to become, in the not-too-distant future, an example of a diversified urban environment where planet-friendly workplaces will have their place, in a liveable neighbourhood where life is good. Investors such as SFPIM, Finance &iInvest Brussels and Ethias have made all this possible. They fully supported the project from the outset as true partners.’ - Frédéric Van der Planken, CEO of Whitewood, manager of Cityforward. ​ 
‘With this investment, we are reaffirming our commitment to playing a leading role in the economic development of the Brussels Region, as the capital of Europe. This project fits in perfectly with our investment strategy, as it promotes the renovation of the existing architectural heritage, which is essential if we are to meet the challenges of climate change, while at the same time contributing to the revitalisation of a central district, thereby improving the quality of life of the people of Brussels,’ emphasises Pierre Hermant, CEO of finance& ​ ​ 

Strong market demand for sustainable offices and housing  

According to recent research, there will still be a shortfall of some 300,000 square metres of office space meeting current standards in the European Quarter for the European institutions alone, even after the transformation project is completed. Given the limited supply, the Cityforward fund expects to see significant interest in these new sustainable office buildings. 

The project also aims to convert office buildings into housing. Cityforward anticipates that around 30% of the redeveloped space will be devoted to retail, public facilities and a diverse range of residential units. As a result, approximately 750 to 800 new flats will be added to the district as a result of this project. 

Ready to begin  

With the transaction and financing now complete, the project can really get underway. The aim now is to keep to this ambitious programme and to work closely with all the relevant authorities. The first permits should be obtained by 2026 with the delivery of the first flats and offices by 2028. To this end, Whitewood will be launching the first three architectural competitions (including the 'Ilot 130' project) in May this year, in collaboration with the Brussels Bouwmeester Maitre Architecte (BMA), the city's master builder. 

Media contacts

Joel Decerf

Communication Officer, SFPIM

Serge Jacobs

Spokesperson, Ethias

Simon Laval

Senior PR Consultant, Bepublic

Mélusine Baronian

Spokesperson, finance&

List of Cityforward project buildings 

  1.  Rue Belliard 68, 1000 Brussels 
  2. Rue de Trèves 74, 1000 Brussels 
  3. Avenue Palmerston 6-14, 1000 Brussels 
  4. Rue Van Maerlant 18, 1000 Brussels 
  5. Rue de la Loi 130, 1000 Brussels 
  6. Rue Joseph II 99, 1000 Brussels 
  7. Rue Joseph II 102,1000 Brussels 
  8. Rue de la Loi 86, 1000 Brussels 
  9. Rue Joseph II 79, 1000 Brussels 
  10. Rue de Spa 3, 1000 Brussels 
  11. Rue Joseph II 54, 1000 Brussels 
  12. Rue du Luxembourg 46, 1000 Brussels 
  13. Rue Montoyer 59, 1000 Brussels 
  14. Rue Belliard 232, 1000 Brussels 
  15. Rue Froissaert 101, 1000 Brussels 
  16. Rue Joseph II 70, 1000 Brussels 
  17. Rue Froissaert 36, 1000 Brussels 
  18. Place Madou 1, 1000 Brussels 
  19. Rue Demot 24, 1000 Brussels 
  20. Rue Demot 28, 1000 Brussels 
  21. Rue de la Science 11, 1000 Brussels 

 Buildings sold by SFPIM to Vicinity - Matexi 

  1. Avenue Beaulieu 25 1160 Auderghem 
  2. Avenue Beaulieu 29-33 1160 Auderghem ​ ​ 

Financial actors in this Cityforward transaction

  • SFPIM 
  • Ethias 
  • finance& 
  • Belfius 
  • Alides 
  • Whitewood 
  • ING 
  • KBC 
  • BNP Paribas Fortis 
  • BIL 
  • Helaba 

About SFPIM  

SFPIM (Société Fédérale de Participations et d'Investissements) is Belgium's ‘sovereign wealth fund’. ​ It aims to be a reliable partner for Belgian companies, whether SMEs or large corporations, and to help them become a benchmark in their field by offering them ‘smart capital solutions’. SFPIM also plays an important role in the long-term stability of the Belgian economy by helping to anchor strategic assets through these ‘smart capital solutions’ in promising or established companies or ecosystems. ​ It invests in a large number of companies and industries on which it has historically focused (life sciences, finance and aviation), as well as in new, forward-looking sectors (energy and utilities, transport and mobility, impact investing). It also manages assets on behalf of the federal government. 

About Ethias  

Ethias is Belgium's 3rd largest Life and Non-Life insurer. It is recognised for its unique business model based on direct, digital and public services, the commitment of its 1,900 employees, the trust of its customers (1,180,257 individual customers and 43,283 local authority and business customers), the support of its shareholders, its more than 100 years of experience and its robust financial base. Backed by a solid group strategy, Ethias is constantly innovating to create value and meet tomorrow's needs through ecosystems in the fields of health, mobility and housing. With its phygital approach and social responsibility, Ethias aims not only to be an insurer, but also a partner for everyday life, accessible to all. ​ 

Our mission: to simplify insurance to bring you security, peace of mind and entrepreneurial freedom, with innovative products and services. As your everyday partner, we put our expertise and dynamism at your service. 

 About Whitewood AIFM  

Whitewood AIFM manages Cityforward, an urban transformation fund, on behalf of several investors. Whitewood AIFM is the fund management division of Whitewood Group, a real estate group based in Brussels and Antwerp that offers innovative real estate services for the management and transformation of large buildings, primarily offices. Whitewood Group specialises in transforming ageing 'brown' buildings into state-of-the-art 'green' office and residential properties, representing around €3 billion of AUM. ​ 

Whitewood AIFM operates under the European Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive and is authorised as a fund manager by the Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA). 

About finance& 

finance& is a public limited company that facilitates and completes the financing chain for value-creating companies in the Brussels Region, in sectors that are key to sustainable economic development and employment. It provides concrete solutions to the financial needs of entrepreneurs, in the form of loans, equity investments or guarantees at key moments in their company's existence. Its financing solutions are aimed at start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs, as well as very small businesses, social enterprises and cooperatives. 


About Bepublic

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