Page last updated at 09:49 GMT, Friday, 6 March 2009

Brussels EU quarter to get revamp

Architects' view of new European quarter
The plan aims to give the European quarter a more human feel

Brussels officials have given the go-ahead for a major facelift of the city's European quarter, which is dominated by EU office blocks.

The project aims to mix shops, housing and public spaces with new office buildings, to inject some charm into what has been called an "urban ghetto".

The area will be spruced up by French architect Christian de Portzamparc and a team including UK-based Ove Arup.

It will include a new tram line. The building work is due to begin in 2011.

The European Commission, which occupies the giant Berlaymont building, says it wants the project to "transform the European quarter from the mono-functional administrative area which it is today, to make it a truly diverse and living neighbourhood".

The commission says it also wants to reduce its own "environmental footprint" through more efficient buildings and better transport connections.

The main street in the area, Rue de la Loi, is often clogged with traffic.

Announcing the plans on Thursday, Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas said that "with 80% office space and not enough housing, the European quarter is still seen by many as an urban ghetto".

The Berlaymont building was given a major renovation in the 1990s, costing 1bn euros (890m), after asbestos used in the insulation was found to pose a health hazard. Staff were moved out in 1991 and the building did not reopen until 2004.

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