Even before Baron Haussmann orchestrated the controversial renovation of Paris in the mid 1800s, Paris has been in constant evolution. In a city where living in the center is too expensive for most people, inevitably, the outer edges are becoming increasingly gentrified. In recent years there has been a real push by the Mayor to redefine areas of Paris usually avoided by tourists by creating community and art centers, malls, cultural programs and more. Here are some of our favorite urban projects that are currently underway, or have just been completed in the City of Light…
Paris’ Urban Development
The new Halle Pajol, in the 18th arrondissement, is a blend of cultural and community spaces, including Paris’ largest youth hostel and a library. Beautiful gardens and water features are built over old railway tracks, creating a contemporary aesthetic. The area still needs some work, but this is a good step in the right direction, and will hopefully bring the community together and encourage tourism.
The old railway track, called La Petite Ceinture (the little belt) that surrounds Paris has fallen into disrepair, but various projects have been launched to make the most of this atypical space. In particular, the northern parts of the tracks are being redeveloped. La Recyclerie, a cultural space, restaurant and gardens, opened recently in the disused building of the Ornano train station (metro Clignancourt). Locals are invited to plant flowers, fruit and vegetables on the banks along the tracks across from picnic tables and an on-site “urban farm”.
The Les Halles underground mall and train station underwent major renovation back in 1971, when the bustling markets – made famous by Zola in Le Ventre de Paris (The Belly of Paris) were relocated to outside the city. But the area didn’t improve, attracting fast food chains, gangs and drugs. The Mayor of the time, Bertrand Delanoë called it “a soulless, architecturally bombastic concrete jungle.” In 2010, construction began for a completely new look to Les Halles, and is set to finish in 2016.
The 13th arrondissement is arguably experiencing the most building work. Take the northern Masséna district, for example, which contained numerous disused factories. The entire area is undergoing complete renovation, and is slowly taking shape – promising to be a desirable residential zone in Paris’ south east.
Although not considered “run-down”, the district to the west of the Eiffel Tower (Grenelle) was – let’s be honest – a rather dull area before the opening of the modern Beaugrenelle. It’s one of this writer’s favorite malls in the city, with a good selection of stores, and no overcrowding. Plus, it houses a large Marks and Spencer’s food hall (very popular with Parisians and the expat British community), and is right on the banks of the river Seine.
Avoid the building work until its finished, and go on a fun Segway tour of Paris’ most iconic monuments. Did you know that there’s a winter sale on (from December 1st – February 28th), too? All the information is here!