The “Pôle d’activités économiques urbaines” project creates an urban business hub with a strong social mandate

The emblematic “Byrrh” building in Brussels’ disadvantaged Laeken neighbourhood, listed as a historic site, is being renovated to house the Urban Business Hub, combining office space and workshops for employment-generating SMEs with strategic social infrastructure, including a public cafeteria. 

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The old Byrrh building will house the Urban Business Hub.  © CPAS de Bruxelles - OCMW Brussel The old Byrrh building will house the Urban Business Hub. © CPAS de Bruxelles - OCMW Brussel

" This project constitutes a real challenge, which the Brussels CPAS has taken … to create more than 200 new local jobs in productive enterprises, particularly suited to less qualified workers, within an efficient and sustainable work environment. The project will also allow us to preserve the heritage of our city, and it will help revitalise the neighbourhood through the dynamic, attractive image projected by this renovated landmark. "

Julie Leloup, Project Manager

Over 12 900 m2 is being be renovated to accommodate a series of modular office areas and workshops, and a cafeteria that will cater both to those working at the Hub and to the general public. The Business Hub will host new companies in flexible, semi-industrial units measuring between 250 m2 and 1 500 m2 with basic office fittings, as well as providing common areas and equipment.

The Brussels Public Social Services Centre (CPAS) is undertaking the renovation of this iconic building, a factory that produced a popular local aperitif (“Byrrh”) from the 1920s to the 1960s and was listed as a historic monument in 1997. The Laeken district is part of Brussels’ “Priority Investment Zone” along the Brussels Canal, where the regional government supports the development of local, sustainable enterprises as a key contributor to urban renewal.

Attracting jobs

The project aims to encourage start-ups and growing companies to settle in the city rather than in outlying industrial parks, creating jobs that will be accessible to local residents. As is often the case with protected historical buildings, a delicate balance must be struck between preserving the unique character of the site, exploiting its potential functionalities in the most cost-efficient manner, and allowing for environmental and social considerations while ensuring a productive business plan that will keep the centre going.

The CPAS expects that semi-industrial enterprises, mainly those working with sustainable and/or organic food, will create over 200 jobs, many of them accessible to less skilled local residents.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for “Pôle d’activités économique urbaines” was EUR 25 997 413, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributed EUR 10 778 274 from the “Brussels Capital Region” Operational Programme for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

Draft date