PSR - JDN - Portret Johan Geeroms

Pioneer in brownfields: PSR’s sustainable mission

As pioneers in the upgrading and reconversion of brownfields, PSR deploy their expertise all over Belgium. The project development branch of Jan De Nul focuses on complex and large-scale, mixed-purpose projects. PSR have currently eleven projects under development, representing almost 200,000 m² together, and an exit value of more than EUR 600M. After having focused on permits in 2022, 2023 was the year of realisation, with a/o the start of the mixed-use development ‘Malt’ in Mechelen and a large-scale residential project in Diegem. For 2024, the focus lies on acquisitions, and an agreement has already been signed for a large-scale SME project in Flemish Brabant, and a medium-scale residential project in Lier.

Interview with Managing Director Johan Geeroms
Source: Expertise News Edition # 673 | 7.03.'24 - Martijn Reviers. 

PSR, which stands for Partner in Sustainable Reconversion, was founded in 1999, with a view to the purchase, rehabilitation and development of contaminated sites in Flanders, in the wake of the new Soil Decree. As a result, the business developed into a pioneer in brownfield development. In 2012, PSR was taken over by Jan De Nul, world leader in marine energy, dredging works, complex building and remediation projects. In 2015, Managing Director Johan Geeroms came on board; he is an experienced real estate specialist who earned his stripes a/o with Rogib and Sobradis.

Front runner in sustainability

With their unique knowhow as brownfield developers, PSR have been working diligently over the pas few years on different large-scale projects in Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels suburbs. However, the business hardly ever took centre stage. In the real estate sector, PSR is a reputable name, but it is not widely known by the wider public that its parent company Jan De Nul is also active in project development. 

‘However, our activities have a huge social relevance,’ underlines Johan Geeroms in an interview with Expertise. ‘Because PSR focus on the transformation of contaminated sites, they have always been a front runner in sustainability and environmental care. We often revitalise urban eyesores that have been stuck for many years by releasing their potential and repurposing the underused heritage in an optimal manner. Instead of 'NIMBY' we are often faced with 'PIMBY': 'please in my backyard'. Local residents and authorities are often looking forward to having derelict plots finally tackled.’

Small in scale, but significant in importance 

We met Johan Geeroms in the Jan De Nul offices at Tragel along the Dender river in Aalst. Next to the existing building, the construction of 19,500 m² (GFA) extra sustainable workplaces is in full swing. In the lobby, there are a few scale models of Jan De Nul’s impressive dredging and offshore fleet. Elsewhere in the building, we also find a few mock-ups of the real estate projects. 

For Jan De Nul, project development only represents a small part of their activities. ‘We are indeed the little runt of the litter in the group when you see what we do all over the world in industries like offshore energy, dredging works, large-scale building projects and remediation works,’ says Geeroms. ‘Project development may be small-scale, but it is still very important, because we can bundle and materialise all our group’s technical expertise in our projects.’ 

Johan Geeroms leads a compact multidisciplinary and dedicated team of six developers, combining legal expertise with urban development, financial, tax, architectural, civil engineering and technical environmental aspects. For this, the team also relies on Jan De Nul’s expertise as a contractor and they use the group’s back office. Geeroms is also personally the driver of the brownfields division of the sector organisation BVS-UPSI and PSR is also closely involved with Madaster, the circular register for materials and products, and VRP, The Flemish association for space and planning.

Large-scale and complex projects

PSR operate independently and are free to select their own projects and work with other contractors and developers. When selecting new projects, PSR remain faithful to their core identity as developer of brownfields. The business specialises in complex projects with a considerable scope, in urban and suburban areas. ‘Derelict industrial sites present ecological, civil engineering and technical permit challenges whereby we can offer a significant added value’, explains Geeroms. ‘Locations that contend with pollution, are derelict, unused heritage sites and need an extensive preparatory phase with a Spatial Implementation Plan do not scare us. Therefore, we can play a helpful role for businesses, landowners, authorities and other partners who don’t know how to tackle their polluted or underused locations. This makes our approach unique. That is why we decided some time ago to fill in the three letters of our name as 'Partner in Sustainable Reconversion'.’ 

Respect for industrial heritage

PSR are proud never to have developed a greenfield. Instead, brownfields are now upgraded with CO2-neutral projects, NZE buildings, BREEAM certified offices and the preservation of heritage sites. ‘This fits in our circular approach and also forms a placemaking strategy', says the Managing Director. ‘These locations possess a rich history that we don’t want to deny. Even though the financial aspect is sometimes challenging to find a balance and it seems easier to tear down everything, we deploy our best efforts to preserve our architectural heritage.’ 

‘We are willing to take risks and we also purchase locations without conditions precedent. We possess the necessary expertise in remediation and following land-use plans. We also have access to a group with its considerable own assets, which can operate as our internal banker. This gives us the financial space to realise such large-scale and long-term projects. The preparatory phase alone can easily take five years, a cycle time that will deter many other parties.’

Preservation of economic function

PSR’s activities are mainly centred in Flanders, but the company also tackles large projects in Wallonia and in the Brussels suburbs. ‘We would like to be active in Brussels as such, nut the complex permit applications in the region are hampering us somewhat’, explains Geeroms. ‘We approach Wallonia with a critical outlook, since market conditions and purchasing power differ from Flanders over there. Therefore, we focus on large-scale locations that we can acquire at competitive prices.’ 

In the past, we focused on the reconversion of brownfields mainly into residential projects, but now we also develop offices, retail premises, logistic centres and business parks. Large area developments make way more and more often for mixed-use projects. 

‘We aim for preserving at least part of the economic function of old industrial sites. There is a strong demand for business premises, while the available space in industrial estates is limited. We recently signed an agreement for the purchase of an 11 acre (4.5 hectare) semi-industrial site in Flemish Brabant, where we will transform the existing buildings with new-build into a future-proof workplace.’

​​Sustainable office projects

JDN - Project Mechelen MALT
MALT in Mechelen

A striking example of a mixed-use project is ‘Malt’ in Mechelen. Here, PSR in cooperation with Codic create 18,000 m² office space, underground parking facilities, flats and single-family dwellings on the former Inofer factory site. Approximately half of the first office building has already been rented out to businesses like Alken-Maes and an international office user, for a record rent of EUR 210/m², absolute prime rent in Mechelen. It is one of the very first BREEAM Excellent certified top offices in Mechelen, which demonstrates, according to Geeroms, that the shortage of sustainable office space is a wide-spread problem and that it is not limited to Brussels, but occurs in Flanders too.

Another project close to Geeroms’ heart is the redevelopment of an old office site at N° 290-294 Leuvensesteenweg near the Woluwedal in Sint-Stevens-Woluwe. This location, characterised by its location and visibility, had been on his wish list for a long time. The project aims for 2,476 m² office space, to be combined with a 877 m² showroom. 

JDN - Zaventem Woluwedal
WOLUWEDAL in Zaventem

Offices are being developed in Liège too, at ‘Rives Ardentes’. This large-scale project is being realised in partnership with Willemen and CIT Blaton. This is a brownfield and PPP urban renewal project, whereby each of the three parties acts as developer, but also as contractor. With 153,000 m² alone set aside for residential units, the scale of this development is enormous. The project is located in a unique spot along the Meuse River – including a new marina – and at a stone’s throw of the city centre. It is intended as a vibrant district with a hospitality boulevard on the waterside, miscellaneous services, educational facilities and offices, among which Ethias’ new head office.

JDN - Luik Rives Ardentes

Large-scale residential districts

One of the large-scale residential projects PSR are currently working on is ‘De Lediaan’ at the heart of Diegem. This project, realised in partnership with Urbicoon, aims at transforming the old rock quarry into approximately 170 dwellings.

JDN - Diegem De Lediaan
De Lediaan in Diegem

In addition, preparations are ongoing for the reconversion of the former Meurop site in Rijmenam-Bonheiden, in partnership with Cogiva. On this 13.5 acre (5.5 hectare) site, there are plans for about 250 dwellings, 4,653 m² office space and 500 m² for retail and hospitality. The SIP is currently being drawn up. 

Another remarkable project concerns the redevelopment of the station district in Aalst, where PSR are working on the Quay District with Besix RED. The programme includes 171 flats, 4,711 m² commercial space (retail, leisure and/or hotel) and 7,500 m² office space. Special attention is paid to green and open space, with plans for a roof garden, parks and the upgrading of the Dender embankments. The planning permit has already been granted and the implementation of aquathermal energy is being studied.

A project land, challenging building or site you want to revitalise?

Let us know. We are always on the hunt for interesting and challenging sites to give them a valuable new purpose.
Do not hesitate to contact us at