Regeneration plan for Charleroi station district

Tim Harrup

Charleroi began its urban renewal several years ago, a renewal which has already seen the emergence of the Rive Gauche shopping centre and the Left Side Business Park, both in the lower city. The Charleroi south station district is now the subject of an agreement between railway operator SNCB and regional development organization Igretec. They are to create a real estate project extending to some 50,000 m² of offices and housing on a site alongside the station. Within the same philosophy as that being deployed in the European and the North districts of Brussels, the aim in opting for this mix is to ensure that this zone does not remain a business-only ‘ghetto’ which ceases to have any form of life outside of business hours. This sentiment is explicitly put forward by Igretec director Renaud Moens.

The starting point for this project in Charleroi is the A6K-E6K hub (business centre, incubator, training activities) located in the former SNCB postal sorting office adjoining the station. In concrete terms, the activities of E6K will be located in new buildings to be constructed on the current car park lot. This is set to amount to some 17,500 m² and create common workshops for Technofutur, Technocampus and the IFAPME, the first two of these expected to relocate from the Biopark at Gosselies. The objective, in the words of A6K-E6K director Abd-Samad Habbachi is to arrive at a critical volume at a European scale by consolidating a series of technological tools for enterprises on the site. He also says that they are aiming for European expertise in domains such as energy, Industry 4.0 and industrial communication. This objective will involve the future Walloon calculator, the ULB data centre and a 5G laboratory developed in conjunction with Proximus. It is hoped to have indoor 5G antenna by September. Alongside this, there will be a total of 10,000 m² of offices and 10,000 m² of housing within this global project whose cost is expected to amount to around 130 million Euros.

New life for the 'Hotel des Chemins de Fer'

Almost 80 years after its construction, the ‘Hotel des Chemins de Fer’ located behind the new Infrabel complex and overlooking the Sambre is preparing to live a second life. This railway hotel once hosted the Charleroi-based employees of the SNCB. Having been empty for 20 years, in mid-February the SNCB put it up for sale. Ikoab co-living and Koeckelberg companies have acquired the buidling for the sum of 1.65 million Euros. They want to create in the building with a total area of almost 5.250 m², one of the largest co-living complex in Belgium. They intend to invest 4 to 5 million Euros to convert the premises and fit out more than 75 large private rooms (from 24 to 52 m²).

The modernist style building, shaped like an ocean liner is signed in part by architect Henry Van de Velde who was at the time the aesthetics advisor of the SNCB. The Charleroi bouwmeester included the building in the master plan for the renovation of Charleroi South Station district. He intends to preserve the style of this iconic building – classified or not – which agreed Amaury Michiels, one of the two directors of Ikoab, when acquiring the building.