News & Buzz

Dispatches’ real estate roundup: Europe is booming from Antwerp to Zeeland


Like every media company, Dispatches tends to accumulate so much info that it becomes almost impossible to keep up with it. That’s especially true of the real estate scene, which is in overdrive all across Europe.

There are three mega projects – one in Antwerp, one in Berlin and one in Lisbon – that are on a scale not seen since before the Great Recession.

So we’re going to try something new … fewer long features and more blurbs and bullets to brief you up painlessly instead of trying to turn every little development into a narrative story.



We just got back from a weekend excursion to Antwerp. But instead of relaxing, all we could do was think about was writing a post about the magnitude of what’s going on there.

So what did we see?

An entire city under construction in what is the largest makeover in Europe. By a mile.

Our group – co-CEO Cheryl Boyd, business partner Nancy Wellendorff Church and I went to Antwerp pretty much because our friend and fellow expat Charlie De Wilde went to university there and loves it.

But when we tried to get to the Jansplein parking garage on the north side of the city, we discovered the roads literally had been removed. Okaaay.


When we finally made it to centrum (by driving at least once the wrong way on a one-way street), we discovered Leien Boulevard is missing through the middle of the main business district. You can’t drive De Leien District (also called “The Boulevard”), the series of street connecting north Antwerp with south, between the Violierstraat and the Maria Theresialei.

That and there’s a 27-story former office building on the Leien that’s been stripped to the core concrete and steel frame.

It’s all part of a huge multi-phase urban renewal project called – wait for it – The Project. Actually, there are several simultaneous projects including the Ringland Project and the Oosterweel Link that will complete the ring road around the city. But everyone we talked to just called the whole transformation “The Project.”

And finally, there are related housing projects in this new and improved European port city, No. 2 behind Rotterdam.

As one young couple told us, it’s very difficult to get around with so much construction. But the plan is to pull the Band-aid off all at one time – endure the pain all at once in order to realize this three-phase project quickly.

There are a lot of moving parts, but over the next few years, various phases will do everything from adding to rerouting and redesigning major transportation arteries.

You can see details here.

The most ambitious goal might be covering 20 kilometers of the multi-lane R1 ring road passing through Antwerp to reduce noise and contain pollution.

You can read about that here.

Along the Leien through the center of the city, the goal is to transform the Opera district south of Antwerp’s regal train station and its famous zoo into a residential and cultural center with 24-hour activity.

Major areas of focus are:

• Opera Square
• Franklin Rooseveltplaats
• Italiëlei
• Noorderplaats

The game-changer for The Opera might end up being the project to transform Antwerp Tower from a tired office building into a multi-use complex with luxury apartments, shopping and offices.

That in and of itself gives us an excuse to return later this year. Stay tuned.

You can read more about Antwerp Tower here … or get on the waiting list to buy a unit.


First, Lisbon grabbed Startup Summit from Dublin, which was a coup. We were skeptical, though, that this was the start of something big.

Turns out it was.

Lisbon officials are planning to build Beato Creative Hub, serving notice to Paris and Station F that Portugal, not France, is the future of digital Europe.

Whether it’s intentional, Hub Criativo Beato is almost the same size – 35,000 meters square – as Station F. But the Portuguese won’t stop there … plans are to punch it out to 100,000 meters square, or 1.1 million square feet. Beato Creative Hub will be spread out among 20 buildings in a vacant military complex, which apparently have already been leased by the city for 50 years (for the bargain price of 7 million euros.)

This is a public-private partnership, and so far, Mercedes, Factory Berlin and others have signed on.


Just when you thought Berlin couldn’t possibly get any hotter, it gets hotter. UrbanLand has a great post about a huge new project to create a new center city around the central train station, which itself only opened in 2006.

Austria-based CA Immo is developing 100 acres as Europacity in the heart of Berlin, one of the largest mixed-use projects in the city. Plans call not just for new office buildings in a hot market, but parks, hotels and residences in a mega-mixed-use plan.

UrbanLand has a very detailed and well-written summary about an ambitious, multi-billion project that’s been on the drawing board since before 2014, but it’s moving forward quickly, scheduled to be completed in 2025.

Check out the vid, which is full of facts. Yet another public-private partnership, which is how things get done in Europe.

Brexit boosts Berlin:  Speaking of Berlin, Quartz has a recent post on PwC and The Urban Land Institute naming Berlin as the most attractive city in Europe for investment and real estate development.

• New terminal at Amsterdam Schiphol: If you thought construction at Schiphol Airport outside Amsterdam was done, think again. Dezeen posted recently about KAAN Architecten’s design for a new terminal. It’s scheduled to open in 2023. This is just the first in a series of expansions. The airport – Europe’s third-busiest – handles almost 70 million travelers per year. Most of Europe’s airports are getting upgrades and expansions. The European Investment Bank has approved more than 2.6 billion in new financing for infrastructure projects including expansions of Orly and Schiphol, and Vienna Flughafen is getting a new runway.

Transition to sustainable power: An oil refinery in Zeeland in the north of the Netherlands is adding one of the largest solar parks in the country. The park will cover an area of about 22 football fields with about 28,500 solar panels, generating enough energy to power 4,000 homes in the summer. Zeeland Solar is scheduled to come online in June.

 Big problems for big Paris project: Chinese developer Dalian Wanda announced back in 2016 it would build the 3.3 billion euro EuropaCity in Paris (not to be confused with Europacity in Berlin above). Since then, everything has gone mostly wrong. Now, the French government is considering cutting the funding for a subway stop, a move that threatens the planned entertainment, shopping and leisure district.

New modular office building in Frankfurt: Frankfurt, like Berlin, is on a fast-track growth trajectory in part because financial giants are fleeing London and Brexit. Inhabitat has a post about a very cool reuse project that will yield premium apartments in the central business district along the Main River. The building will go from a conventional office building to a modular housing concept which Inhabitat says looks like a giant Jenga block.

Dutch repurpose prison into eco-friendly neighborhood: Only the Dutch could figure out how to transform a place of punishment into a place of innovation. Bijlmer Bajes – a former prison complex – will be transformed into a lush, green, eco-friendly neighborhood with 1,350 residential units in Amsterdam, a city that badly needs more housing, according to Lonely Planet.

RetailDetail wants to take you to Eataly: If you haven’t see the giant FICO Eataly World in Bologna, here’s your chance. B2B website RetailDetail has a trip going in June. Join retail expert Jorg Snoeck on a plane and head to the Italian world of food for a three-day adventure. You can get your tickets here.

 | Website

Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

Most Popular

To Top

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive the latest news and updates from Dispatches Europe. Get lifestyle & culture, startup & tech, jobs and travel news dispatched to your inbox each week.

You have Successfully Subscribed!