The City of Esch-sur-Alzette, second largest city in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg with over 36,000 inhabitants, is the capital of the Minett region covering the whole southern part of the country. The region is as well known as “terres rouges” - meaning “red earth” - referring to the iron ore that has been mined and transformed into iron and steel products in the area for well over 150 years. The steel industry having been at the origin of the country’s today’s wealth, it started declining in the mid-70’s so that Esch, the Minett Region as well as the whole country were forced to reinvent themselves. As for a lot of Western countries having long been marked by (heavy) industry, Luxembourg shifted its economy to the services sector, currently representing 88% of Luxembourg’s wealth. As for the City of Esch, it is today marked by on ongoing transformation of former industrial sites into modern neighborhoods, and it is also host-city of a growing number of institutions and business active in the fields of knowledge, innovation and creative technologies, hosting for instance the University of Luxembourg.
From steel works sites to innovative urban districts
The aforementioned transformation started in the early 2000’s with the “Quartier Belval” that once was Luxembourg’s biggest ironworks site. With is transformation being almost completed 20 years later, this new city quarter today is home to 7,000 people and 25,000 jobs, bringing closer working and living. This broad range of uses resulting from an innovative overall development concept has earned the “Quartier Belval” the gold certification for “mixed city districts on the path to sustainability” awarded by the “German Sustainable Building Council”. Following this chosen path to sustainability, there are currently another two former industrial sites (“Lentille Terres-Rouges” and “Metzeschmelz”) in Esch that are being transformed into environmentally friendly future living districts. These two sites combined will be home for over twenty thousand people. To comply with the national efforts in terms of significantly bringing down the CO2 emissions, the two districts have been designed as “low carbon areas”. In a concern to preserve industrial heritage, and in the spirit of circularity, several remarkable industrial buildings have been kept and have or will be refurbished in all three districts. The city of Esch also finances a chair at the University of Luxembourg in the field of urban regeneration and planning.
Aside from the city’s and major stakeholder’s efforts to transform the city of Esch into a sustainable and future-oriented city, a number of bottom-up initiatives are also actively contributing to this ongoing transition. Their actvities range from sharing economy, circular economy, second hand/zero waste, social integration, smart mobility, to local value chains. Most of these initiatives have been set up by and oriented towards citizens, being as such appreciated by local actors. The City of Esch is actively supporting all of these initiatives, be it financially, logistically, communication-wise, and is also very proactive in creating links between them. In the framework of the “European Energy Awards” – a support organization to push and implement climate policies at a municipal level – the City of Esch has recently been awarded both with the “gold label” (highest possible label) as well as the complementary “circular city” label. In a next step, the City of Esch aims to become the second national circular economy hotspot.