Transforming a metropolitan road to improve biodiversity

The Woluwe Boulevard after implementing NBS

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The LIFE Urban Greening Plans project works on brining nature back to cities. At the end of 2021 project partners met up in Brussels to exchange and while there, also had a change to visit the renatured Woluwe Boulevard.

The Woluwe boulevard is located inside Brussels. On one side it is bordered by large facilities (schools, cultural centre and stores) and on the other side by the Woluwe River. This area includes a series of parks, some of which are classified as Natura 2000 and managed by project leader Brussels Environment or by the municipality.

The boulevard is a typical 1970s urban motorway: over-dimensioned and heavily trafficked, with vulnerability to flooding, noise, visual and air pollution. Cyclists pass along the river which puts additional pressure on this natural area that already has a bad biological state. The boulevard was no longer fit for a modern city.

Woluwe Boulevard – before

When it was decided that a new tramline should be build on the boulevard, the designers decided to connect the project to the ongoing restoration of the Woluwe river banks. It was the perfect opportunity to transform the motorway into a parkway. This would reinforce the existing ecological and landscape continuity, manage vulnerability to flooding and transform the road from an infrastructure that was mainly oriented at cars. The end result would be a multi-use public space with a better balance between the different users – including non-human.

Main innovation and source of inspiration for this project:

  • Transformation of a motorway into an parkway;
  • Implementation of a tram with grassed lanes, bicycle paths and a promenade;
  • Reinforcement of a metropolitan green and blue infrastructure by setting up an integrated rainwater management system, the development of an extensively managed tree and planted mall, the integration of a landscaped edge along the N2000 Parks that border the river.

Woluwe Boulevard – after

This project is one of the first time Brussels integrated Nature-based Solutions (NBS) when redeveloping a major roadway. It especially focussed on « water management solutions », something that will become more and more important for cities as the effects of climate change become more apparent. Whilst there is still room to be more ambitious, the project has already contributed to a new culture of nature-oriented public works projects. This new way of project management is more aware of the added value of applying NBS for upscaling a project.

You can read more about this case study here, or have a look at the report of the LIFE Urban Greening Plans technical meeting.

Workshop Report