Charleroi, September 28, 2023 - As part of the redevelopment of Charleroi and selected among the priority projects of Belgium's National Plan for Recovery and Resilience (PNRR), A6K-E6K, a project initiated by the CATCH Plan and supported by Sambrinvest, has just reached a significant new milestone in its growth ambitions: the application for an urban planning permit for the realization of the architectural complex that will allow the activities of this technological development hub to expand into larger, greener, and better-suited spaces has been submitted by the teams of the intermunicipal company IGRETEC.
A6K-E6K: A Positive Momentum Since 2020
Inaugurated in January 2020, the A6K-E6K project aims to consolidate and accelerate the growth momentum of technology and digital players who have demonstrated their ability to create local employment by co-locating their activities in a single iconic location. Currently occupying 7,000 m² within the former Charleroi sorting office, this hub brings together two closely connected worlds:
- A6K (Atelier 6000), which brings together more than 50 organizations on 5,000 m², is an ecosystem where industrial companies, startups, research centers, competitiveness clusters, universities, and training operators come together to foster innovation in engineering. Notably, it includes companies like Alstom or Aerospacelab, which will soon open its satellite factory nearby with the support of local investment.
- E6K (École 6000), spanning nearly 2,000 m² and bringing together various public and private education operators, is a center for diverse technological and digital training, both in content, duration, and learning techniques. Actors like IFAPME, Technofutur TIC, or Becode have been present since the early days. In 2023, nearly 1,000 people have received training there, and the number of learners continues to grow in these areas.
In the midst of acceleration, the project was feeling cramped, so the idea of an expansion was studied. Thanks to an unprecedented partnership between Sambrinvest and IGRETEC, responsible for conducting studies and awarding contracts for this future project on behalf of A6K and E6K, and with the leasehold rights granted by SNCB, this project was able to benefit from the support of the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR), which includes a subsidy of 75 million euros to successfully develop the structure in two directions:
- A comprehensive transformation of the postal sorting building, dedicated to A6K, next to the esplanade of Charleroi Central Station, will result in a renovation of 44,882 m² of total gross surface area.
- The construction of a new building on the adjacent platform to accommodate E6K's training offerings will cover 18,253 m² of total gross surface area.
Today, the dossier has taken a significant new step with the submission of a building permit application for over 60,000 m².
An Ambitious Transformation and New Construction Project
In line with the transformation of the esplanade, the bus station, and the banks of the Sambre, and in close coordination with the Bouwmeester's cell to ensure the urban articulation of the project with the various Charleroi DC works, which are nearing completion, the renovation of the postal sorting office dedicated to A6K will give a new look to this large monolithic building clad in gray. As explained by Xavier Berto, director of IGRETEC's design office, the current architecture and blue stone cladding will be preserved, but significant changes will be made: "The building, which has so far been self-centered, will turn towards the city and change its appearance by draping itself in a second skin: a clear translucent exterior veil made of perforated metal that will play with light. A sense of lightness will replace the austere and mineral character that currently emanates from the building."
On the esplanade side of the station, the massive structure will open onto a covered passage. Pedestrians will be able to walk from west to east, from one end of the building to the other. At the halfway point, they will also have the opportunity to turn northward, percolating towards the Sambre and the lower city, through another opening that will pierce the current blind facade of the postal sorting office, facing Quai 10 and its "Placerelle" above the water.
From the viewpoint of Charleroi Central Station's square, the entrance to A6K will be green, and vegetation will continue in the open interior gallery accessible to the public, where the active workshops will be visible to passersby.
Upon reaching the end of the covered passage, some 120 meters further east of A6K, the new building that will house E6K's classrooms will be revealed. Built with a maximum of bio-sourced materials (hemp blocks, earth plaster, etc.) and also clad in a metal mesh acting as sun protection, the building can, for example, use heat pumps drawing water directly from the nearby Sambre for temperature regulation.
"This new construction is the most advanced and ambitious low-carbon project ever designed in Charleroi Metropolis. It will pave the way for other ambitious real estate projects," suggests Grégoire Dupuis, Director of Sambrinvest.
As for the south facades, those facing the noonday sun, the railway tracks, and the ring road, they will be transformed into a genuine garden accessible to building users: fruit trees, native climbing plants, and other plants will create a natural backdrop and a green and cool area, serving as both a sunshade and a CO² capture element. To contrast with the rails and transition to the green heart of the project, IGRETEC's designers have chosen to clad the 300 meters of connected facades of these two buildings in green as a signature.
Construction Work Starting Next Spring
The permit application that has just been submitted opens the way to the operational phase of the project. Once the necessary permits are obtained and studies are completed, the first works are expected to start in spring 2024, beginning with the new construction on the current post office parking site, which will accommodate E6K's activities from 2025. The transformation of the postal sorting office will follow, with the completion of the works scheduled for autumn 2026.