The “commune” of Uccle in Brussels (communes in Brussels are similar to arrondissements in Paris) feels like a country village, yet it’s just a few minutes’ drive from downtown and the headquarters of the European Union.
Uccle stretches along two enormous parks—the half-square-mile Bois de la Cambre, which abuts the 20-square-mile Forêt des Soignes. Even within the neighborhood, the spacious villas are often hidden from view on large, wooded plots.
Since 2000, Uccle has been a favorite spot for French expatriates wanting to avoid France’s “ISF” —a solidarity tax on wealth above €1.3 million (US$1.5 million), and the trend picked up steam when François Hollande became president of France in 2012 with the promise of a 75% tax bracket above €1 million (US$1.2 million).
The commune of Uccle combines high-quality housing for far lower prices than Paris, a French school, or Lycée Français, and easy access to the high-speed train that connects to Paris in under an hour and a half.
While Uccle, like much of Brussels, has many international residents, French expats are the biggest group, making up one-third of non-Belgian inhabitants. Other European Union nationals comprise the majority of foreign residents. A bit more than two-thirds of Uccle residents are Belgians.
Starting at the corner of Bois de la Cambre, Uccle continues south along Chaussée de Waterloo to the R22, through the Forêt de Soignes along the Drêve de l’Infante. It continues west, to the boundary with Flanders, along the Drêve des Bonniers, then Drêve Pittoresque. Then, just the east of Grote Baan, it turns north toward Rue de Bambou, and east along rue Vanderkindere.
Prices range from €2,500 (US$2,943) per square meter—€230 (US$271) per square foot—for a property in need of renovation, to more than €5,000 (US$5,887) per square meter—€460 (US$542) per square foot—for a recently renovated place, said Abraham de Bettencourt, director of Lecobel Vaneau real estate agency in Brussels. Prices can climb even higher, to €6,500 (US$7,653) per square meter—€600 (US$706) per square foot—in some corners of the commune, said David Chicard, director of Sotheby’s International Realty in Brussels.
The price range for villas is €2 million to €4 million (US$2.4 million to US$4.7 million), but prime properties can fetch as much as €10 million (US$11.8 million), Mr. de Bettencourt said.
Apartments tend to sell for between €1 million and €3 million (US$1.2 million and US$3.5 million), Mr. de Bettencourt said.
Villas make up the majority of Uccle’s housing stock, though there are a few prestigious apartment complexes, and a number of new ones in the planning stages. Apartments usually run 150 to 250 square meters (1,615 to 2,690 square feet), said Mr. de Bettencourt.
Villas are generally 300 to 500 square meters (3,230 to 5380 square feet) on lots that average 3,000 square meters (32,300 square feet), he said. Properties are smaller on the north and west side of the commune.
Uccle originated from a scattering of rural hamlets, and a few very old houses, complete with thatched roofs, still exist, Mr. Chicard said. Sotheby’s has a listing for a thatched-roof 477-square-meter (5,135-square-foot) villa with a swimming pool on 2,200 square meters (just over half an acre) of land, for €2.75 million (US$3.2 million).
Belgium Sotheby’s International Realty
The area became urbanized later than the rest of Brussels, so it has more modern architecture—about half the properties are modern or cubist style.
An early example is the glass house in the style of Le Corbusier that architect Paul Amaury designed for himself in 1935 on rue Jules Lejeune. Other contemporary architects with works in Uccle include Bruno Erpicum, Vincent van Duysen, Marc Corbiau, Charly Wittock and Charles Breckpot.
Mr. Erpicum designed a 1,650-square-meter (17,800-square-foot) house on 5,000 square meters (1.25 acres) of land, including an indoor pool with a movable floor. On the market for between €7.5 million to €12.5 million (US$8.78 million to US$14.6 million) with Sotheby’s.
Belgium Sotheby’s International Realty
A smaller house—380 square meters (4,100 square feet) on a lot of 1,045 square meters (a quarter of an acre)—designed by Mr. Erpicum is listed at €2.95 million (US$3.5 million). “It’s the new Uccle,” Mr. Chicard said. “The houses are filled with light and with views of greenery outside. You feel like you could be anywhere but Brussels.”
What Makes It Unique
Uccle is an exceptionally lush commune, between its parks and forests and homes’ large, wooded lots. “It’s a neighborhood that’s well preserved and privileged historically,” Mr. de Bettencourt said. The absence of tram and subway lines means Uccle has always been “for those who could afford to get away, who were wealthy.”
Exclusivity and privacy reign in Uccle. “If you drive around, maybe 60% of the properties are hidden,” Mr. Chicard said. “It feels like living in the middle of a forest.”
Uccle’s exclusivity extends to its schools and sports clubs. The Lycée Français Jean Monnet is one of the country’s top schools; the Collège Saint-Pierre is highly coveted. Uccle also is home to the European School and Bogaerts International School, while the British School of Brussels and the International School of Brussels are not far. All the private schools offer classes from preschool to high school. There’s also a bilingual Montessori preschool in the neighborhood.
Sports clubs include the David Lloyd, in a château in the Forêt de Soignes, with a gym, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools and a spa; the Royal Leopold, with fitness, tennis and field hockey facilities; as well as the Royal Racing Club and the Royal Wellington, which have tennis and field hockey facilities. The Brussels Lawn Tennis Club and Le Roseau offer tennis on clay courts. An equestrian center and a golf club are in the Bois de la Cambre. The Forêt de Soignes is a popular place for horseback riding, as well as hiking and biking.
While most of the city’s luxury shops are located at Brussels’ Avenue de la Toison d’Or, a 15-minute drive away, some boutiques and very good restaurants can be found on some of the main arteries and around Prince d’Orange. Popular tables include the Franco-Belgian Châlet de la Forêt, with two Michelin stars (“everyone wants to go there,” Mr. Chicard said), and la Villa Lorraine, a French restaurant with one star.
For shopping, there are some chains, such as Comptoir des Cotonniers, Eden Park and Patrizia Pepe, and independent boutiques, like No Concept and Vert Chasseur, which carry a variety of high-end fashion; Belgian fashion brands such as Bellerose and Jeff; and shoe stores, including The Sneakers, which customizes sports shoes.
Who Lives There
Uccle is a favorite of well-to-do Belgian families who have lived there for generations. It also is popular among French expatriates— “there are some French who sold their companies and moved to Belgium and are making new startups,” Mr. Chicard said.
Many ambassadors and diplomats—U.S., France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland and Dubai—also live in Uccle because the large properties allow for big, formal receptions and other events. More than a dozen embassies are located in Uccle.
The former president of then-Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, had owned a château in Uccle—it’s now a private psychiatric clinic.
In addition, a number of celebrities have owned property in Uccle, including TV presenter Arthur, who bought a house from Formula One driver David Coulthard, actor Dany Boon, haute-couture designer Olivier Strelli and former deputy prime minister and foreign minister Didier Reynders.
After a slip in prices three or four years ago, lagging the global economic crisis, prices have stabilized, particularly on the high end, Mr. de Bettencourt said. On top of that, Uccle’s housing stock is likely to expand to include more apartments, which would satisfy the trends of millennials, who are tepid toward large gardens, he added.
“The Belgian market is a stable market,” Sotheby’s Mr. Chicard agreed. “It isn’t made of speculators.”
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