Blue Gate Antwerp, a vast mandate for CEUSTERS

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Blue Gate Antwerp, a vast mandate for CEUSTERS

To partner it in the marketing of the North Terminal of the giant Blue Gate Antwerp project just south of Antwerp city centre, sustainable developer Bopro has selected two agencies, one of them very logically CEUSTERS. Bopro is proud of its sustainable characteristics, and says that this is because in the future, the value of a real estate asset will be intrinsically linked to its positive impact on humans and on society. Simply conforming to ESG standards will no longer be enough, and so Bopro goes further.

In this article, Bopro Managing Director Peter Garré sets out the main features of the project and its evolution, along with the role of CEUSTERS. BSI (the holding company of brand name Bopro) is a partner and operational developer and became involved with Blue Gate Antwerp following a competition organized by the City of Antwerp ten years ago. One of the reasons for the win, believes Peter Garré, is that they did not call into question the quality and sustainability objectives of the City, but attempted to go even further in this domain. The functioning of a Public Private Partnership such as that for Blue Gate Antwerp, sees, each of the partners having a role to play: the government as quality controller of procedures, guarantees equal treatment and acts as licensing authority, while the private partners have the expertise to undertake the development of the area in all aspects. In the case of Blue Gate Antwerp, the PPP is structured as follows: (City of Antwerp), PMV, Vespa and De Vlaamse Waterweg (Flemish government) on the one hand and private partners DEME Environmental Dredging International (DI) and Bopro Sustainable Investments (BSI) on the other.


The North Terminal of Blue Gate Antwerp has adopted a particularly environmentally-friendly approach. The ambition at Blue Gate Antwerp, Peter Garré confirms, is to develop an innovative stacked business complex, consisting of modular business units that are rented to various tenants active in, among other things, smart urban logistics and sustainable production, research and development, and support services. Blue Gate Antwerp thus forms part of the circular economy, and as such is set to help the city of Antwerp in its own circular economy goals. Developing more circular dynamism within an urban environment also creates market for the circular entrepreneur, particularly those active in the above-mentioned domains. It provides space for sustainable innovation technology and local employment, for city-regional production and local cycles. Alongside all of this, Peter Garré emphasizes the fact that real estate projects are often delivered up to ten years after the original plans, so a sort of future-proofing has to be put in place. This has turned out to be relevant, as the project is now on the market and corresponding to today’s requirements.


Blue Gate is described as a place where both local and internation- al companies can locate, thanks to this priority given to sustainable factors. Bopro’s job is to develop the site and to find occupiers, which is where CEUSTERS comes in. Individual properties can be either rented or purchased, which is not traditionally the case in Antwerp, where waterside land could not previously be purchased. And it was indeed necessary to purchase the land to carry out the de-pollution work at the outset, Peter Garré points out.

Where occupiers are concerned, the emphasis is on finding companies which are looking to be part of a circular economy environment, and which can therefore be helped in achieving their goals by locating in Blue Gate Antwerp. The targeted marketing is thus designed to attract complementary companies with a focus on research and development - preferably in sustainable chemistry, cleantech innovative manufacturing companies and players in smart logistics and distribution. This means that companies which already have this approach, and those which don’t but wish to start doing so, are both suitable potential occupiers. Bopro is careful in its marketing targets and “we don’t sell to the first person who knocks on the door!” The whole development is scheduled to continue until 2035, so Peter Garré points out that it is not necessary to sell as quickly as possible, and that in any case they will only build constructions which fit in with the overall concept. “Part of this concept – and we have asked CEUSTERS to look at this – is that occupants can work together, share resources and be an advantage for each other”, he goes on.


“Blue Gate Antwerp focuses on three pillars”, Peter Garré states, “starting with sustainable infrastructure, which is achieved by using heat pumps and district heating networks rather than gas, and integrated solar panels for electricity for example. So the buildings and the infrastructure are sustainable, and the third pillar involves inviting occupant companies to evolve their own business models in this way”. Peter Garré does point out that they can’t oblige companies to alter the way they operate, but merely invite and suggest that they adopt circular principles, including working together with other occupant companies. Around 50% of arriving companies really like this idea and embrace it, while it may take time for others. But in this way it is his hope that Blue Gate Antwerp will become an accelerator for the city and for the region, showcasing how companies can develop their futures within a circular environment.


Within the same domain, one of the first activities on the site was an incubator operated by Blue Chem, and the University of Antwerp has also invested in an incubator which is focusing on materials and the circular economy. Peter Garré: “We have a strong emphasis on R&D, and we also have an approach involving CO2 neutral goods distribution to the city, with DHL and Amazon already having located on the site. The next phase of the logistics cluster – operated by Montea – will also be starting in the next month or so. There are already two major tenants for this element too”. Montea in fact operates the section which is north of the ‘green corridor’ and it buys land and buildings from the PPP.

In operational terms, the North Terminal is quite a unique concept for logistics, amounting to 80,000 m2 of space on a four hectare plot, and with a two-level layout which gives a usable space to ground area ratio of 1.3, which is around double the norm for logistics activities. Peter Garré says they have done this because land is scarce close to Antwerp. And there is already a lot of interest and pre-letting for this part. The north terminal building will be BREEAM outstanding with exceptional energy performance.

Continuing, Peter Garré says: “The most challenging part of the North Terminal – which includes offices and R&D as well as logistics – will in fact be R&D because this site is not yet seen as an obvious location for R&D activities, compared for example to Leuven and Ghent where the locations are very visible. But we are working with the city on bringing visibility here”. Currently around 50% of Blue Gate is under development, and around a third of the remaining 50% will be for R&D.


Speaking of his company’s collaboration with CEUSTERS, Peter Garré said that they are the local partner and that they have a good relationship with small and medium sized enterprises. But they also have a link with international markets, and along with the other mandated broker they can approach this international segment, despite the fact that

in the current economic climate there is not a great deal of investment coming in. “We know that CEUSTERS have the ability to seek out and bring to the site the sort of companies we are looking for”.

In terms of connections in terms of mobility, this may at first sight be seen as not the greatest advantage of Blue Gate Antwerp – the nearest railway station is around three km away. However, as one of the main functions of the complex is logistics and distribution, road connections are important, and it has already been seen that the concept of site-wide shared car parks is working – companies do not have to in- vest in their own private car parks but just pay for what they use. It has also already been seen that there is a very high percentage of persons working on the site who come by bike rather than by car.

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