The designers for a proposed development on Foch Avenue, the Constructions et Développements urbains (CDU) company and the architectural firm Hamonic, Masson, and Associates, summarized the birth of their project with the following words: “Everything started with a gut-feeling. While smoking a cigarette outside of a restaurant in Paris’ 16th arrondissement during a summer night in 2012, the opportunity presented itself to survey a locale with rather unusual dimensions: Foch Avenue. This small piece of the city is 1.3 kilometers long, but 140 meters wide. On foot there was no way to cross the stream of cars, and there were no businesses, no metro, and nobody around.”
And so, half of Foch Avenue is planned to be transformed into an urban park, and the other half would become a gigantic public space with businesses, an area reserved for pedestrians, and even a luxury hotel. All of this would come at no expense for the local government who should expect profits of – according to the project designers – more than a million euros.
For the Socialist member of the National Assembly Jean-Marie Le Guen, who also is the first politician to encourage this large project, “this transformation will mark a renewal for the Champs-Élysées.” First Deputy Mayor Anne Hidalgo has also come out in support. In a press release she explained that, “We are ready to carefully investigate this ambitious prospect which will revitalize neighborhoods in the western part of Paris through the construction of public housing for both middle class individuals and young people, while also creating an exceptional public space for all. This project revisits Paris’ cultural heritage, which I am very attached to, while further developing it. The project is taking root in order to make transformation possible in Paris, which is a dynamic city. I am particularly interested by the strong potential of the site situated between the Dauphine and d’Auteuil gates, which could welcome an innovative neighborhood with 5,000 to 7,000 mixed-type housing units featuring high-quality architecture and the necessary public utilities. It would belong to the tradition of the great nineteenth century parks by serving as a façade for the Bois de Boulogne [...]”
Individuals belonging to France’s more right-wing parties have been much less enthusiastic, denouncing the project as “unrealistic,” and even “outrageous,” in the case of the arrondissement’s Deputy Mayor Claude Goasguen. Valérie Montandon, a spokesperson for the UMP party’s mayoral hopeful Nathalie Kosciusko-Morize, reproached Hidalgo for wanting to “interfere with what is already there rather than wanting to take on urban challenges through working on neglected areas.” Foch Avenue has a special classification as an urban open space, and it is “the only avenue in Paris classified as a Historic Monument,” notes Montandon.
Should developing areas such as Foch Avenue be secondary to more pressing renewal projects, or can parks and revitalization efforts have impacts that outweigh their costs?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.
Original article, originally published in French, here.