Belgium's REALTY 2012 sees leap in number of international investors attending (BE)

The number of international property investors attending the REALTY real estate trade fair in Brussels between May 22 – 24 soared by over 50% this year, as investors appeared to view the commercial market of Europe's capital and its Belgian environs as a relative safe haven with its concentration of EU government-linked institutions, compared with some countries hit by the Eurozone crisis.

Gregory Olszewski, Exhibition Manager for REALTY said: "We again saw very respectable growth in the overall number of visitors attending the show, but it was particularly interesting to note the big jump in international investors who seem to view the Brussels commercial property market as a relative safe haven in the Eurozone.

"There was also a strong increase in retailers attending REALTY and both trends probably reflect the increasing demand for exhibition space and the quality of the associated social events and seminar program."

The total number of visitors to REALTY this year rose by 9% to over 5,000, compared with 2011 – when attendance leapt by more than 40% – which indicates the growing maturity of the event in its fourth year as an annual fixture on the European circuit of major real estate trade fairs including MIPIM in Cannes in March and ExpoReal in Munich in October, Olszewski added.

At the opening event of the REALTY seminar program, the European Real Estate Policy & Investment Forum organized by PropertyEU, Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans said the city's commercial property market was less vulnerable to the fallout from the Eurozone crisis, because it was not so dependent on financial businesses or the spending of national governments than others.

He said that the €900 million NEO mixed-used urban development project in the north of Brussels, the most ambitious and challenging in Belgium's history, would also significantly boost the city's economy and the quality of its infrastructure.

Attendees at the Forum heard from European industry associations EPRA and INREV and other speakers that the EU could achieve the biggest payoffs in its key objectives of boosting economic growth and cutting the bloc's energy consumption by carefully assessing the impact of regulation and targeting financing on the real estate sector.

"Economic growth in Europe is not going to come from exports, when the prospects for our major trading partners in the US and China look distinctly murky. It's also not going to come from internal consumption in the EU with its recession-hit economies and high unemployment. The usual solutions aren't working and it's time to look for new sources of growth like the mass refurbishment of buildings to make them energy efficient," Carsten Brzeski, Senior Economist at ING Bank said.

Alternative visions of the future of real estate development and city planning were presented at the CityBoom Booming Cities – Blooming Cities session organized by the Belgian Real Estate Trade Federation (UPSI-BVS).

Kai-Uwe Bergmann, partner at the international BIG architects group based in Copenhagen, said its philosophy was to find ways of designing cities that are both ecologically and economically profitable and where the outcome of projects doesn't force people to alter their lifestyles to have a better conscience.

Business consultants Arthur D. Little followed the BIG presentation with an overview of their study on the future of urban mobility worldwide and the particular challenges facing the city of Brussels.

Arthur D. Little Partner Francoise-Joseph van Audenhove said the future is increasingly urban, with 70% of the world's population living in cities by 2050, but that growth will be accompanied by a tripling in the time people will spend in traffic congestion.

"The future will be urban, but urban mobility systems are on their way to breakdown as the majority of cities are badly equipped to cope with the challenges ahead," he said.

The consultants' survey of cities for the Arthur D. Little Urban Mobility Performance Index, showed that in Europe, Amsterdam, London and Stockh

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