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On the road to happiness


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When Equilis was founded by the three cousins Mestdagh, the focus was on commercial real estate properties. The company had been active in the Belgian retail segment for over 100 years, and due to their ambition to diversify, Carl Mest­dagh set up a new business seg­ment, concentrating on real estate projects at first, before expanding their activities to residential build­ing by 2010. “We started as a retail player but after some time we decided to address the residential market as well by setting up pro­jects for mixed use. One focus is on the rehabilitation of industrial properties in urban environments and on the development of new concepts accordingly,” points out Olivier Beguin, CEO Europe. Equilis’ projects take place on both green-field as well as brown-field sites in order to bring new life to once derelict land.

“Most of our projects are assigned for a period of 5 to 15 years, ranging from sites where we start from scratch to der­elict industrial plots which we rede­velop,” adds Mr. Beguin. In 2013 Equilis become a pan-European player when it expanded beyond the Belgian borders and set up subsidiaries in Spain, France, Po­land, the Netherlands and Luxem­bourg.

“Each country is managed locally, this is part of our mentality – think internationally in European terms but act locally,” stresses Mr. Beguin. “There is no copy and paste, as cultural and local differ­ences are taken into consideration. We aim to create happy building stories with a positive aura.”

The image of happy buildings runs like a common thread through the company’s activities. “Our ambi­tion is to build happy buildings not just bricks. We want to provide more than basic retail or housing functionality. It is essential to adapt to each context, to each city and to each country. We have to bring our added value to our custom­ers. We go for buildings with a meaning,” explains Mr. Beguin. In addition, Equilis has acknowl­edged not only different cultural requirements, but new trends and new lifestyles.

Oliver Beguin
We aim to integrate aesthetics and happiness in all our commercial and residential projects. Oliver BeguinCEO Equilis Europe

“Modern customers need other functionalities, they are working and shopping differently, and their consumption habits have changed for good. Aspects like mobility, sustainability or working space have to be integrated into our building concepts,” says Mr. Beguin. “Sustainability is key. We design the impact our buildings will have on the wider ecology. We have been pioneers in developing shopping centers with high stand­ards (Docks Bruxsel: Breeam ex­cellent certification – Finestrelles: Breeam Very Good), but also in de­veloping eco-neighborhoods. And we must not forget aesthetics as a vital element. We have set up an internal committee for the aestheti­cal validation of all the choices re­lated to a project. We also integrate a digital approach while embracing new trends of living, shopping and working.”

Equilis’ growth potential is enormous. It is planning to de­liver more than 100,000 m2 retail, residential and office space in 2021, and there is a volume of 500 million EUR for on-going invest­ment. International expansion is also high on its future agenda. In 2019 the new German subsidiary will start into operation, and Equilis is already looking for a new CEO Germany.

“We have lots of plans for the future, taking into account new trends and new opportuni­ties,” states Mr. Beguin. “We have to re-invent the way we do things in a sector that until recently was still very conservative. We are now mixing functions in projects and are ambitious to integrate aesthet­ics, sustainability and happiness.”

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