EuropaCity : the economic model and the environmental impact remain unclear

The appointment was expected to see the light, into the gigantic project of the leisure complex and shops planned for 2008 in the “golden triangle” of Gonesse, in the north of Paris. After the approval Monday, September 25, by the city Council of the city of the change in the local urban plan of the municipality, the project holder, Alloys&Territories, had hinted that he would announce on the following Wednesday, real changes, which may obviate the critical reason for the negative opinion rendered in August by the investigating commissioner, Ronan Hébert. Convened in its premises, the press has, however, remained on his hunger.

A unique building in a plan for the district

Of course, the project goes well change the face of, in order to take into account a part of the perplexity of the inhabitants. “A plan of unique building we have evolved towards a plan for the district, with streets, squares, and multiple entries”, more open to the rest of the city, explained the director of operations Alloys&Territories Matteo Perino. The construction – often compared to a “flying saucer” – which was to extend, according to the former project on 80 acres, has been reviewed by its designer, Danish architect Bjärke Ingels. It gives way to a set of buildings built around a central plaza the size of half of the garden of the Tuileries.

In the logic of “co-construction” which, according to the director-general of Alloys&Territories Benedict Chang should lead the redesign of the project, the design of eight buildings to be considered “iconic” (hotels, aqua park, centres for cultural and concerts, contemporary circus) will be entrusted to architects different. They will be chosen by contest in December among 29 candidates, with stars such as Stefano Boeri, or young talents like Franklin Azzi. The filing of authorisations is foreseen in 2018, for a construction start in 2019 and an opening of the site in 2024.

Photovoltaic panels and biomass boiler

But beyond the new look, the major questions persist. The concerns of sustainable development, at the centre of the negative opinion of the public inquiry, there have not truly been lifted on Wednesday. Alloys&Territories is limited to emphasize the integration in the new project of a “continuity-the green was a constraint but will become the backbone of the project”: it will include an urban farm of seven hectares (which will be supplying organic products to the restaurants in the complex), as well as a landscaped park and green roof gardens. The press release stresses the contribution in terms of biodiversity of such a project, so that today the land intended to EuropaCity are mainly devoted to intensive agriculture.

On possible innovative policies for energy efficiency, green mobility, circular economy, the basics – beyond the installation of 14 acres of photovoltaic panels and a biomass boiler – is however awarded in the future. “The work that remains to be done” to improve this angle of the project, recognizes Thierry Lajoie, president and Ceo of the company Grand Paris Development, which manages the development of the Triangle de Gonesse for the account of the State. “The example of the ea is one of the criteria that preside over the choice of projects participating in the competition of architecture”, however, stresses Matteo Perino, while ensuring that the debate will be conducted as to the scale of the neighbourhood and in a logic of mutualisation.

Offers freemium and premium as on the Internet

The economic model to justify the investment of 3.1 billion euros, financed by the Auchan group and the conglomerate chinese Wanda, necessary to build the complex – for a net creation of around 10,000 jobs in the operation phase , continues to be also rather opaque. “The challenge is to create synergies between activities that, today, only, is not generating enough revenue”: shops, culture, sport, leisure, summarizes David Lebon, director of development of Alloys&Territories and former head of the cabinet of Arnaud Montebourg at the ministry of Economics. “As the Internet, the park will incorporate offers freemium with premium jobs “, he adds, explaining to bet on the architectural diversity and the programming of the site in order to convince the 30 million visitors to non-revenue expected to be favoured for their visits and their purchases, this complex is located 15 kilometers from Paris.

“EuropaCity will become a destination festive, participatory and popular”, and “contribute to the desirability of inclusion history represented by the Grand Paris”, promises, however, Benedict Chang. It shows, furthermore, little worried about the little sympathy shown for the project by the new minister of the ecological Transition and solidarity, Nicolas Hulot, as well as about the rumors regarding a possible output of the project of Wanda.

“The master plan of the region Ile-de-France (DRIF), adopted in 1994 (in which the State and the region have decided to urbanize the Triangle de Gonesse, editor’s NOTE) has for the time being not changed,” he recalls.

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