Quality of life for all: AGORA’s winning bet

What if the future of the city were being written today, with its promises of quality of life and city living finally satisfied? This is what AGORA, the planning and development company for the Belval site, manages to demonstrate.

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There are the students we see cycling past, riding on the cycle track on their own lane, to arrive on time for lectures. And the employees picnicking at lunchtime in the park a stone’s throw from their offices. There are the residents shopping just outside their apartment block, and the retired couple leaving the cinema delighted by the film. And again, there is the young father, pushing his toddler in his stroller on the wide pavements … Under the protective gaze of the two blast furnaces, life in the neighbourhood is in full swing. It’s not a dream, just a normal day in Belval.

What if, despite the soaring population and density, living well in the city was finally possible? What if the neighbourhoods of the future were being written today, full of promise, finally satisfied by urban living? This is the ambition that AGORA has been striving to put into practice in Belval for 20 years.

Illustration in a few examples.

Entrepreneurs, students, researchers, residents, a mix as a factor of social cohesion

Living together, in all the diversity of our times: this is one of the cornerstones of AGORA’s work. To achieve this, it was first necessary to diversify the proposals so that everyone could find meaning in them. In fact, two decades after its launch, Belval is well and truly a place with a thousand uses. There are places to study (a high school, a university), places to work (more than 200 businesses and public authorities), places to be entertained (a concert hall, a cinema), places to shop (a shopping centre, shops), and, of course, places to live. The residents did not get it wrong: there are now 18,000 people visiting to site every day. These include 3,000 residents, 5,700 schoolchildren and students, and 8,500 employees. A cheerful neighbourhood of people who, thanks to the development of ingenious urban solutions, rub shoulders and meet in public spaces, in parks, squares, courtyards of apartment blocks, pavements, cafés, … In Belval, living together is a reality, as all the inhabitants will tell you.

To each his own way of living, housing provision far from standardised

To ensure that everyone finds their place, AGORA has worked to diversify the property supply. From students to large families, from retired couples to young working people – there is no lack of options, everyone finds an answer to their needs. It is in this spirit and with this priority given to social mix and diversity that the company works in collaboration with the promoters. The objective is to put in place all innovative solutions adapted to the trends in society. Just one example with the future “Millenium” residential project. From the outset, working closely with the architects in charge of the project, AGORA considered the possibility of developing an original product, the “home offices”. An innovative proposal for apartments combining two uses: living and working. An offer aimed at the new generation of teleworkers bringing together, in the same place, a space for living and an office or workshop necessary for business activity.

Reconciling city and nature, a vital and attainable goal

////////////////////// TRADUCTION MANQUANTE In an urban quarter the need for nature is essential. AGORA understood this early on. In Belval there’s no shortage of green. First, of course, there is the “Um Belval” park, which joins the residential areas of Belval Nord and Belval Sud with the Square Mile and the Blast Furnace Terrace. Here again, it is the multiplicity of uses that has guided the work of the landscape planners: the eight hectares of greenery, open 24/7, offer numerous rest areas, playgrounds, sports fields and themed gardens. In its extension, there is the “Public Green”, a vast area for relaxation and meeting, which adjoins the “Waassertrap”, a precious biodiversity reserve for fauna and flora. Residential neighbourhoods are dotted with playgrounds and islands of greenery where children have fun while their parents watch.

Imagining the urban space with the users

Quality of life cannot be decreed: it must be built up patiently. And where possible, collectively. At a time when citizen consultation and participation are on the rise, AGORA has taken up the issue and integrated it into its urban projects. In Belval, the development company regularly conducts user surveys to sound out their perception and experience of the site. At the pace of the various studies, the occupants can thus regularly express themselves. Many subjects are proposed to them, such as the provision of services, urban organisation or accessibility. AGORA intends to take this citizen-based co-construction approach a step further as part of the project to revitalise the former steelworks in Esch-Schifflange. Already, in 2019, the planning and development corporation launched a groundbreaking urban design workshop, open to citizens who will be asked to make recommendations and suggestions to the planning teams. Other initiatives will follow.

Accessibility and proximity, an achievable requirement

Mobility has been asserting itself for a decade as an essential variable in the quality of life. The predominance of the car has had its day – Today’s city dwellers aspire to a diversified range of means of transport that are less time-consuming, more environmentally friendly and more connected. They want to be able to mix their modes of travel: train, car, walking, cycling, scooter… A new situation that AGORA is incorporating from the very beginning of its projects. Thus, the Belval site has a renovated train station, bus routes and state-of-the-art cycling infrastructure. A range of alternatives to the car that the development company intends to further expand at the Esch-Schifflange site. A response to the strongly expressed demands of the population to give priority to public transport and soft mobility solutions.

20 years of inventiveness and a constant willingness to place the human being at the centre of our thinking will have had this virtue: to prove that quality of life and urbanity can be synonymous. And a good thing, too, because AGORA’s adventure is just beginning.

Interviews with Agora employees, partners and experts, with the ” Défis urbains ” series discover the values promoted and developed by AGORA.

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