Nurturing trendy new shops and businesses in Brussels

Over 90 stores and eateries in the Belgian capital have been launched or renovated with extensive support from the OpenSoon project. Each one was selected by a professional jury, partners of the regional trade agency Atrium Brussels, with an eye on boosting the city’s attractiveness as well as more innovative and original shopping.

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Au Marché Noir, a new slow-food restaurant in St-Gilles, Brussels.  © Nicolas Lescot, Atrium Brussels Au Marché Noir, a new slow-food restaurant in St-Gilles, Brussels. © Nicolas Lescot, Atrium Brussels

" Open Soon is a powerful tool for rejuvenating urban retailers by linking the economy with innovation. "

Julien Bacq, Chief Retail Officer, Atrium Brussels

In an age of big malls and e-commerce, Brussels authorities today understand the urgency of revitalising urban shopping and dining out. OpenSoon contributed to that goal by helping to open/renovate 94 new and innovative businesses around the city over seven years. They include unique restaurants, cafés and wine bars, a delicatessen, art gallery and workshops, sports gym, women’s fitness centre, a beauty salon plus a diverse range of specialist retailers (e.g. bread, beer, chocolate, poultry, spices, men’s and women’s clothes, and jewellery).

Under the project, several empty retail premises benefited from renovation support, bringing them up to contemporary standards and enhancing their appeal. Improvements were also made to some 60 storefronts in five shopping areas, as well as to a number of shop signs and terraces.

A better shopping experience

‘OpenSoon is all about improving the quality and diversity of shops in Brussels, with a focus on those offering innovation or an original concept,’ said Julien Bacq, Chief Retail Officer at Atrium Brussels. ‘We provided between 50 % and 75 % of the funding, depending on the period and place, for the selected start-ups or businesses renovating their premises. Our team also offered invaluable advice and coaching.’

In 2014, thanks to regional funding, OpenSoon extended its support beyond the city’s development zone to the whole of Brussels, and covered commercial premises that had been empty for at least a month. Support was offered to owners and tenants.

A jury of commercial experts examined the projects of some 310 candidates. Around half of them were selected for support according to five criteria: the extent to which each business meets local needs, inventiveness, quality of the concept, project funding and viability, and boldness and originality. OpenSoon notably helped to create an estimated 136 jobs, when last calculated at the end of 2015.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Open Soon” is EUR 2 250 000, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund is contributing EUR 1 125 000 from the Operational Programme “Brussels Capital Region” for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

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