Introduction to the Beherman Group

The Beherman Group, with its headquarters in Bornem near Antwerp, is a Belgian multi-sector trading company that has been established for more than a hundred years. Over the years the Group has acquired a solid reputation in the Benelux for the import, distribution, production and assembly of a total of 26 brands of freight and passenger vehicles. Alongside its activities in the automotive sector, the group has focussed on other business activities in the fields of IT management and development, financial services and reinvestment, as well as residential and industrial real estate.

For the time being, the automotive sector remains the Beherman Group’s core business. Currently the enterprise is responsible for a Mitsubishi network of 58 dealers and 32 agents, for 39 FUSO distributors in Belgium and Luxemburg and 84 Saab service and repair centres in the Benelux and France. In addition the Group would like to concentrate its efforts on project development and managing residential and commercial property.

In 2012 the Beherman Group and Bopro set up the company Sustainable Development Mechelen NV (SDM). SDM has established the centralised blood transfusion service of the Belgian Red Cross Flanders in a part of the Ragheno Park in Mechelen, next to its headquarters.

On the 13 hectares owned by the Beherman Group, the finishing touches are being made to a project plan with residential and business units that will guarantee sustainable development of the area based on a healthy economic profitability, minimal environmental impact and corporate social responsibility. In the context of this huge urban renewal plan, the next office project to be launched on the market will be named ‘Pure M’.

Pure M Mechelen, the new centre of Belgium!

Every morning and evening the Flemish and Walloon radio stations recite the daily traffic congestion. Gridlock on the Brussels and Antwerp ring-roads, traffic jams on the N16 and the N21, delays on the E40 at Ghent and E313 at Hasselt. You rarely hear Mechelen mentioned in the daily traffic summaries. This is good news for the people of Mechelen, as well as for the City Council who are able to promote it not only as a charming city but also for its central location that is and will remain easily accessible. By road, at least.

Thanks to its location in the heart of the country, Mechelen is also easy to reach by train from nearly all Belgian and European cities. It takes less than 20 minutes to get there from Brussels, Leuven or Antwerp. The railway stations and the bus station are located within walking distance. The international airport Zaventem (Brussels Airport) is a 10-minute train ride away.

Despite Mechelen’s existing good location and ease of access, its Council has been working for some time to achieve further optimisation of the city’s accessibility. And for good reason; precisely because of its location between Antwerp and Brussels, Mechelen is becoming more and more popular with companies suffering from the reduced accessibility to these large cities. More local business will indeed produce more inhabitants. In the past decade, the population of Mechelen has risen by more than 7000, bringing the total number of inhabitants to 83,000. More people live in a radius of 25 km from Mechelen’s main market square than in the same radius around Antwerp and Brussels. In order to better exploit the city and its location’s potential, a large-scale redevelopment plan has been devised focussing on the area around the station.

In the coming years, the area surrounding Mechelen’s station will undergo a complete transformation. Not only will the city have a new central station, the neighbouring buildings will be refurbished and incorporated to form the new heart of the city.

The Beherman Group is a major player in this urban renewal project. The Group owns over thirteen hectares of land in this development area which is called “Ragheno Park”. Recently the Group concluded successful negotiations with the authorities to regenerate part of the terrain that is historically contaminated and for which a Brownfield covenant has been obtained. Work is already in progress on part of the project area. The centralised blood transfusion service of the Belgian Red Cross – Flanders, whose headquarters are currently under construction and will be completed this year, is located in Ragheno Park. This marks the start of a revival of the station area which will not only set Mechelen in motion in the near future but also definitely put the city back on the map.

The strategic extension of the large station area is one of the key features of Mechelen’s Municipal Structure Plan. It will be the most impressive urban development project taking place in Mechelen for the coming decades and clearly has an international dimension. In 21st century Mechelen near the station, the city has chosen to adopt a sustainable mobility concept, daring architecture and novel urban planning ideas. These will involve the construction of a new railway line (Bypass) and an essential access road for cars and lorries (Tangent), the development of a multimodal railway and bus station and the reconstruction of streets and squares in the station area, resulting in traffic flow adjustments. The Bypass needs to be constructed urgently in order to enable the speed limit to be raised from 100 km/h to 160 km/h for international trains passing through Mechelen Station so that the station’s capacity can be increased to accommodate the Diabolo and GEN projects. Mechelen Station is the largest public transport hub in the city, in the south of the province of Antwerp and in the north of the province Flemish-Brabant, also for travel by bus. Mechelen Station provides access to the surrounding region –both the city, the suburbs and the more remote municipalities. It is also where all the city and regional services stop. The new station will be a 7-minute walk from Ragheno Park.

The Tangent and the Bypass are part of the same infrastructure project that is of a high quality in terms of urban planning and architecture. Both infrastructures have been designed using an integrated approach. During the construction works, the inconvenience to the city and its inhabitants/workers must be kept to a minimum. The station building – a Eurostation design created by architects Salvatore Bono and Brent Turchak – will be furnished in a futuristic and user-friendly style.

The new station is set to become the driving force for regenerating the wider area. A mixed living and working area will emerge on the south-east side of the station, which should bring the 21st century to medieval Mechelen. A district should be attractive to live and stay in, but above all must provide space for companies and organisations that are confronted in other parts of Belgium with space limitations (no options for expansion), poor access and financial burdens (too high rents). These restrictions do not exist in the Ragheno Park area which the Beherman Group is developing with several partners.

As of 2012, the Beherman Group has signed a cooperation agreement with the experienced Eurostation team and De Paepe Group to establish the new project area. It involves sustainable development, based on sound economic profitability, which is socially accountable and has a minimum ecological impact on the area. Complying entirely with these basic conditions, the Beherman Group is now launching the first major project under the name “Pure M”.

“Pure M” is the ambitious pioneer
of the further development of Ragheno Park

The “Pure M” project is situated in the city’s development area “Ragheno Park”, just south of the Mechelen ring-road and a stone’s throw from Mechelen’s Central Station. Previously the Beherman Group had single-handedly achieved the establishment of the centralised blood transfusion service of the Belgian Red Cross Flanders, next to its headquarters in the development area. This complex is currently under construction and will be completed this year.

“Pure M” is a 20,000 m² office development which aims to use top quality, contemporary architecture in order to play a pioneering role in the further development of the Ragheno district. “Pure M” was designed by Jaspers & Eyers Architects. Establishing office units along Motstraat will form a buffer zone between on the one side Motstraat and the existing railway infrastructure, and on the other side the area behind that will consist mainly of residential units. As we are talking about a considerable development, it was decided to divide the entire project into three different dimensions. This would match the scale of the project respectfully with the underlying residential area. One large building would be seen as too massive.

Three organic layers will now rotate concentrically around a central courtyard, providing an interesting volume effect with surprising views. The project opens out onto Motstraat which will get a new route in the future, thereby functioning as a major arterial road in the new part of the city. Thanks to the strategic location and modern architecture, “Pure M” will not only underline but also improve the recognisability of the new junction along Motstraat. As an iconic building in the Ragheno district, it will form the gateway for access to the new part of the city.

The idea is that the three volumes are erected above ground level. The green raised area is landscaped and underneath contains the necessary parking garages and bicycle parking. In addition it will act as a green buffer zone for the properties in the inner area. The central courtyard can be accessed from three sides. Because of this, the entire site will be accessible for pedestrians and can in the future be included as an alternative and small-scale walking route.

The project facades have distinguishing characteristics placed round the building in a continuous rational model. The vertical section is aligned with the already existing verticality of the new Red Cross building and the scale of the types of houses, thus reinforcing the volume effect of the three organic volumes. Together with the horizontal overhang panels, they also provide shade from the sun.

The compact layers offer a great amount of flexibility for the office floor layout. A standard level will be roughly 1,500 m². A landscaped layout as well as an individual office layout or a combination can be easily accommodated on one work floor. The central courtyard together with the functional hub is the key feature of the work floor. Besides providing natural light, the courtyard also has an energising impact. From within, an interesting interaction is created between the various levels, providing captivating views of the surroundings. Alongside ambitious and progressive architecture, “Pure M” also aspires to high standards in terms of energy and ecology. This matches the overall development of the new urban area, thereby reinforcing the city of Mechelen’s desire to play a pioneering role.