On 17 February 2016, the Board of Directors of NV Blue Gate Antwerp, chaired by Philip Heylen, decided to enter into a public private partnership (PPP) agreement with Blue O'pen for the remediation and development of Blue Gate Antwerp.
Blue O'pen has three main contractors: two companies of the DEME group - DEC (Deme Environmental Contractors) and Dredging International – and Bopro as the third real-estate consultant.
Blue O'pen is a consortium working with the following sub-contractors:
- for the logistics: Van Moer Stevedoring, Montea and City Depot
- for the energy component: Cofely (from Engie, previously GDF-Suez, group)
- for the park management: Quares
- for R&D and support: VITO and Universiteit Antwerpen
- for spatial planning and licensing: Omgeving study group.
For the PPP procedure, a decision was made in favour of a competitive dialogue. This means that over the course of three dialogue rounds (separately with each candidate), the project was turned inside out and improved where possible. This intensive procedure culminated in a very well documented proposal. In the final phase, two candidates submitted a bid: Blauwe Plek (a consortium with Cordeel and Aertssen as main contractors) and Blue O'pen.
The site where Blue Gate Antwerp is to be developed is a brownfield. As such, remediation of the soil will be a first challenge. Blue O'pen has submitted a very strong, well-founded and integrated development concept, where all the different aspects, such as the spatial approach, remediation, the development, the water resources and heritage, have been brought into line with each other.
It is pleasing to see that Blue O'pen also meets the sustainability ambitions of Blue Gate Antwerp. In terms of energy, a heat network will be developed and renewable energy will be generated locally, initially through boilers, later maybe via a biomass boiler. In addition, photovoltaic panels will be placed on the rooftop to generate green electricity. Wind turbines are not (yet) planned. Blue Gate Antwerp will be a CO2-neutral, and possibly even CO2-negative, plot of land.
The entire development will comply with the European sustainability standard BREEAM, at least at the Very Good level. Also, each individual building will have to meet this standard.
The total cost of remediation, raising the soil and the construction of road infrastructure amounts to EUR 58 million (excl. VAT). The Flemish Region will be setting aside EUR 24 million in subsidies through the Grant Decision for Industrial Premises. Blue O'pen accepts the full remediation duty of the site 100% at a fixed price of EUR 22 million.
The logistics zone will be developed first. Also at the bottom of the plot in the R & D area, work will be started soon. Not coincidentally, those are two zones that are relatively less polluted. Thus, the development will gradually work its way towards the heavily polluted cores. The phasing means that an ecological connection function is guaranteed between the green zone around the ring road and the Hoboken Polder at all times. That function should ultimately lead to a green corridor covering 14.5 hectares.
Blue Gate Antwerp plans three types of activities: logistics, manufacturing and R&D. The business area can provide jobs to approximately 2,000 people in the long term.
Blue O'pen wants to attract companies that meet the ambitious sustainability profile defined in a Charter, which stipulates that sustainability relies on the principles of the circular economy, namely innovative, water-dependent and international.
The land will be divided and sold by Bopro, which is part of the Blue O'pen consortium. Bopro will, together with the public partners (AG Vespa and Business & Innovatie voor stad Antwerpen, and ParticipatieMaatschappijVlaanderen and Waterwegen & Zeekanaal voor Vlaanderen) attract new businesses. The first major marketing campaign will be launched at the MIPIM real-estate fair in Cannes (15-18 March 2016).
The commodification of the land should generate EUR 47 million, which covers the cost of site preparation, the pre-financing and operation of Blue Gate Antwerp for 20 years.
Blue O'pen and the current public partners in Blue Gate Antwerp NV will enter into the new PPP company together, tentatively called the GEV (Grond ExploitatieVennootschap). In the GEV, the private partner has a majority interest of 51%. "For a number of key elements, we as public partners have a veto right," says Philip Heylen, chairman of Blue Gate Antwerp NV. "We feel comfortable with that. So we can guarantee our sustainability ambitions will be met in this area."