The Grand-Place in Brussels is an ensemble of monumental architecture consisting of a Gothic town hall surrounded by Baroque-style houses, which owes its external appearance to profound modifications at the end of the 17th century and major restoration work during the 19th century. Today, it is a major tourist attraction and an important heritage and cultural site which requires appropriate management.
This site has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1998, it is a major tourist, heritage and cultural attraction that calls for sustainable development based on proper management. A safeguard perimeter has been identified determined around this site: the buffer zone, known as the «UNESCO zone».
Visitor statistics from the tourist office at the City Hall show a steady increase in the number of visitors. This influx of tourists leads to changes in the type of shops. The streets of this zone concentrate shops almost exclusively dedicated to tourists and are situated on routes often mentioned in the tourist guides.
This situation illustrates one of the major problems of heritage sites: mono-functionality. This phenomenon corresponds to the gradual disappearance of other activities intended for a resident population, in favour of the economic specialization in the tourism sector intended for a passing population. The decree of the Brussels region of 2003, relating to the changes of commercial uses, made it possible to regulate the type of shops during the delivery of a building permit. In 2015, the City of Brussels adopted a business development plan aimed at enhancing the diversity, originality, and quality of the commercial offer in its center.
It is an essential instrument that includes analyses and recommendations to address the development of new Trade Points and to ensure the viability of downtown businesses. Several actors contribute to this evolution: hub.brussels, Brussels agency for business support, Entreprendre, an association charged with the promotion of shops and businesses the Régie Foncière of the communal properties of the City of Brussels as the owner of many commercial ground floors and the Commercial Department of the City of Brussels by its promotional actions.