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A new vibrant heart for the city
The largest mixed use project ever built in Belgium: 300.000 sqm of built area on a 8,5 HA site
L'esplanade, a brand new concept: located at the heart of Louvain-la-Neuve, L'esplanade created, developed and built by Wilhelm & Co, an expert in city centre regeneration, has transformed the campus-city into a major point of attraction for all inhabitants of the region.
The objective of this large mixed-use was to provide Louvain-la-Neuve, the only Belgian new town, with a hyper-centre to strengthen its status as a major regional hub in Brabant Wallon, on the southern edge of Brussels.
  • - Louvain-la Neuve represents a town planning challenge in itself. The city centre of this pedestrian town build on two levels of decked parking is entirely pedestrian and built above two levels of decked parking.
  • - 8,000,000 people visit the town each year and more than 1.000 new jobs have already been created.
  • - The project is developed as a one and a half km promenade, leading the visitor from the shopping center L’esplanade at the eastern entrance of the city through rue Charlemagne, the new shopping street, to emerge on Grand Place, where the Cinema and the Aula Magna concert hall end this walk.
L’esplanade is made up of:
1. A regional retail and leisure offer wit
  • - a shopping centre on two levels : located at the entrance of the city partially built oveer Louvain-la-Neuve train station and partially above a large capacity 3 level car park , the 34.377m² GLA centre creates a vertical link between the road and public transportation level and the pedestrian level.
  • - a pedestrian retail street: the Rue de Charlemagne comprising 7,200 sqm GLA of ground floor retail space above which are constructed 221 apartments on three levels.
  • - a cultural and leisure centre made up of a 13 screens cinema, a bowling and many restaurants
2. Residential accomodation comprising :
  • - 220 appartments on rue Charlemagne “Les Terrasses de L’esplanade” built over the boutiques on the ground floor
  • - 240 appartments “Les Jardins de la Source’ built in a second phase behind rue Charlemagne along the Parc de la Source.
3. A substantial element of car parks and infrastructure:
6.000 parking spaces in the city centre
L’esplanade represents many challenges:
1. A strategic challenge
To design a project which would transform a university campus surrounded by residential districts into a genuine regional urban hub.
2. A global and financial challenge
To conceive, finance and bring into being a 315.000 m² mixed use project within the heart of an entirely pedestrian city centre, built above two levels of decked parking.
3. A City-management challenge
To make this dual-level city function : a car level and a pedestrian level, the developer created a new subsidiary “GESPARK“ which supply a series of public services :
  • - the management of the logistics of delivering merchandise to the city
  • - the management of the collection and disposal of household waste
  • - the management from a central control room of personal security and of fire protection within the urban substructure.
4. A mobility Challenge
A project developped in a tri-dimentional city where pedestrian and car traffic operate at different levels
5. The environmental challenge
In Louvain-la-Neuve – getting away from the restricted image of a campus and becoming a real town – the creation of a variety of functions of significant size opens the city to the outside world and opens it out onto itself. By doubling the surface area of the city centre this urban heart had to become the meeting point for the four residential districts which make up the city. The sheer dimensions of this development is intended to generate positive consequences for accessibility, with the multiplication of means of access – buses and trains. The ‘L’ esplanade’ shopping centre aims at a wide catchment area (600,000 persons) whose commercial habits, due to the lack of regional retail infrastructure, have necessarily been undertaken in the cities of Brussels, Namur, Leuven).
6. A technical challenge
The 200.000 sqm of the first phase of L’esplanade were constructed in a record time (24 months). The creation of a new pedestrian thoroughfare – the Rue Charlemagne – was the real challenge ; it had to be conceived whilst taking account of numerous underground constraints (car parks and roadways, uninterrupted traffic flow, short lead times, neighbouring residential accommodation, etc.). The stability calculations had to enable different types of buildings - not yet defined - to be constructed.
International Recognitions
L’esplanade has won international recognition from the ICSCI (International Council of Shopping Centers) with its prestigious ReStore Price for public/private development partnerships.
  • - has been awarded the “Urbanicom Price” for retail real estate in November 05
  • - has been Retained as it’s permanent case study by the ICSC Retail Property School.
  • - has been retained as a case by the University of Liège and by the University College London (UCL)

Key figures

Master Plan


Overall view