New life for the 'Hotel des Chemins de Fer' in Charleroi

Didier Van Den Eynde

Almost 80 years after its construction, the ‘Hotel des Chemins de Fer de Charleroi’ is preparing to live a second life. Having been empty for 20 years, in mid-February the SNCB put it up for sale. Ikoab co-living and Koeckelberg companies acquired the buidling for the sum of 1.65 million Euros. These developers want to create one of the largest co-living complex in Belgium.

Ikoab specializes in the development and management of around 100 rooms let in co-living in around 65 houses located in Brussels, Mons, Charleroi and Liège. The company is booming; new homes are set to open in the coming months. In the Hotel des Chemins de Fer, with a total area of almost 5.250 m², Ikoab and Koeckelberg SA will invest 4 to 5 million Euros to fit out more than 75 large private rooms (from 24 to 52 m²). In order to maintain a family atmosphere, each floor will operate independently with shared spaces. The ground floor is scheduled to be dedicated to the development of accommodation suitable for people with reduced mobility. The two flat roofs will be converted into garden terraces.

This railway hotel once hosted the Charleroi-based employees of the SNCB. It overlooks the Sambre behind the new Infrabel complex. This modernist style building, shaped like an ocean liner, also recalls the aerodynamics of trains. It is signed in part by architect Henry Van de Velde who was at the time the aesthetics advisor of the SNCB and as such had a say in all the architectural realisations of the Belgian railway company. The Charleroi bouwmeester included the building in the master plan for the renovation of Charleroi South Station district. He intended to preserve the style of this iconic building – classified or not. Amaury Michiels, one of the two directors of Ikoab, agrees: “The desire is to maintain unchanged the structure and visual identity of the railway hotel built in 1933”.