Established global cities such as Paris are transforming themselves to stay front of stage in a world where close to 90% of urban growth up to 2050 is forecast to take place in Asia and Africa (source: UN).
After the French Football Team won the World Cup earlier this year, Paris is on the path to another winning streak, this time of a different kind – with the doubling of the Paris metro network by 2030 in a project called the Grand Paris Express.
The project maps out 200km (124 miles) of new track, four new driverless lines (Lines 15-18), the extension of two existing lines (Lines 11 and 14), and 68 new stations, with the creation of corresponding new neighbourhoods and new economic poles.
By the time the Olympics open in Paris in 2024, the athletes’ village in Saint-Denis, to the north of the city, is due to be fully connected, with the new station of Saint-Denis-Pleyel becoming one of the key future transport hubs in Paris.
(See below Q&A interview with Richard Malle, Global Head of Research, BNP Paris Bas Real Estate.)
Europe’s biggest infrastructural project
The project – almost double the size of London’s new Crossrail line – is being led by the public Société du Grand Paris (SGP). The new lines will link suburb with suburb, suburb with city, and with Paris’ three airports, Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Le Bourget, as well as with the city’s TGV train stations.
This is more than just a transport project: Paris is creating a new vision for urban development – one that densifies the city, rather than spreading urbanisation out along radial lines.
Thierry Dallard, who became the SGP Chairman of the Board in May, and who has a strong experience in public and private infrastructure projects, said earlier this year: “The project, even though unique at this time in Europe, will become very quickly a model for other big metropoles in the world.”
As a report by BNP Paribas Real Estate says: “[The project] aims to improve the living environment for residents, to correct regional inequalities, create employment, attract new businesses, and build a ‘durable’ city. The project will therefore profoundly modify the face of the Île-de-France [the Parisian region]in the years to come.”
Creating a Greater Paris
SGP goes hand in hand with another public body, the new Métropole du Grand Paris, or Greater Paris, created on 1st January 2016. The Métropole is in charge of governance, urban projects and sustainable development. The aim is for Greater Paris to become carbon neutral by 2050, which is reflected in the Grand Paris Express project.
This creates a new metropolitan area of 7.2 million people – more than triple the population of the city of Paris. The city of Paris, meanwhile, becomes one of the 12 territories that make up Greater Paris. This gives a size of city in a far better position to compete with the megacities of the future, with the UN forecasting that 43 cities around the world will have ten million or more inhabitants by 2030.
The latest grand project – Grand Paris Express
Grand Paris Express is the latest grand project for which Paris is so famous: from Versailles, which was made the main royal residence in the 17th century by Louis XIV, the Sun King; to the wide boulevards and public spaces created by Baron Haussmann in the 19th century; and the wave of civic building in the 1980s, which gave the city such iconic monuments as the Louvre Pyramid, the Great Arch of La Défense and the Parc de la Villette.
Investor interest in new business poles
Already the market is responding to the investment opportunities. For example, London investment firm Tristan Capital Partners and STAM Europe bought an office development site near the new stations of Val de Fontenay and Saint-Denis Pleyel earlier this year
Q&A with Richard Malle, Global Head of Research, BNP Paribas Real Estate
What does the Grand Paris Express mean for commercial real estate in Paris?
“The Grand Paris Express project has recently been one of the main focuses of interest for international investors in the French market. Public transportation is obviously still a key criterion when investing in an office building and this project will reinforce the attractiveness of areas outside the city of Paris itself and which accounted for three-quarters of large office units transacted over the last decade. These cross-border investors are looking at new areas with high potential growth, both for commercial and mixed-use properties.”
How will this affect particular areas or districts of Paris?
“The project will develop fast transit lines across the whole metropolitan area, redesigning the region as an area to live by promoting mixed-use schemes. This will clearly facilitate economic expansion within Greater Paris.
“In the north of Paris, Saint-Denis and Saint-Ouen will fully benefit from the Grand Paris Express project. For instance, transportation time will be halved for journeys from Saint-Denis Pleyel to Charles de Gaulle airport (21 min tomorrow vs. 46 min today) or to La Défense (13 min tomorrow vs. 26 min today).
“In the Western Crescent, Nanterre, Boulogne as well as Issy-les-Moulineaux offer very attractive developments and the project will reinforce their strategic positioning with regards to the inner city of Paris and La Défense.
“In the south and east of Paris, certain cities are set to be enhanced, such as Vitry-sur-Seine, with the ZAC Gare Ardoines, where more than 650,000 sq metres of developments are planned, of which 60% are for the tertiary activities. Or Fontenay-sous-Bois, with the Val-de-Fontenay hub, which is in the midst of change even though the new metro connections are set to be among the last to open.”
Are we seeing the shift of economic focus from the traditional city centre areas?
“A key example is the move of the Greater Paris Regional Council (Conseil Régional d’Île-de-France) from over 60,000 sq metres in Paris itself to rent two new buildings in the Docks of Saint-Ouen. These buildings, called Influence 1 & 2, offer a total area of 57,000 sq metres for a delivery date from 2017 to 2019, and are due to welcome around 1,800 people in all.
“The Docks of Saint-Ouen is near the metro Line 13 and the future Saint-Denis Pleyel station. The latter represents one of the Grand Paris Express’ main hubs. Beyond the criteria of public transportation, the Greater Paris Regional Council has also chosen this location among 37 other projects for cost-saving reasons and to promote an under-developed area.”