City in sight: the greening of Paris
By Joy Santharum – Senior Asset Manager, Chelsfield France

Insights 24th June, 2020 in Europe

It’s inspiring to work in Paris, a city which is working hard to transform more of our urban landscape into green space. Currently, only around 10% of the city is whereas in London, that figure is at least one third and in New York, it is close to 30%.

But we are seeing this change, the growing ecological conscience of Parisians is being matched by a state-driven political agenda following the Paris Accords, sustainable development policies from the Paris Municipality, and environmentally-friendly regeneration schemes from local planning authorities. Tackling the carbon footprint may be the objective, but the reinvention of Paris is a consequence.

The recent traumatic events of the Covid-19 lockdown will certainly act as a catalyst for more green spaces in Paris. Following the end of the lockdown measures, the public parks and other green spaces were enjoyed by Parisians as a long-awaited haven. They were an escape from the dense urban fabric that constitutes Paris and an alternative and free point of gathering, relaxation and exchange.

Beyond the landscaping of the Parisian scenery and its obvious esthetical goals, the green space policies of Paris seek to encourage the use of these spaces by the locals for sports and wellness or even productive activities like urban farming. The latter will benefit from recent events as short food supply chains are increasingly encouraged. From landscaped sidewalks, new public parks, wooden-framed buildings, to underground agricultural farms and rooftop gardens, the Paris scenery has changed over the last decade.

Paris’ proud architectural heritage is now challenged to accommodate green spaces wherever it can. Wary of protecting its architectural uniqueness, the solution that emerged was to sacrifice some of vehicular traffic in favour of two-wheeler and pedestrian traffic. This strong choice, much contested initially as any ecological measures, is starting to take over with a sense of inevitability.

The objective of the Municipality is to green 100 hectares of the city with planted roofs and façades with around one third of that space bringing urban farming into Paris. This include the world’s largest urban farm on top of the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles exhibition center, and a 700 m2 urban garden under the raised metro line at Barbès-Chapelle Stalingrad. Urban forest planting will also enhance some of our historic sites including the Place de l’Hotel de Ville, the Palais Garnier and a footpath along the banks of the river Seine. The intention of the City is to showcase these schemes for the eagerly anticipated 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The green philosophy is something in which everyone in the city can participate and implement. We play a role in bringing outdoor space into our projects, but equally it is about residents using these spaces and maintaining them.

The benefits are for everyone as well, Parisians and its 50m annual tourists. Paris will become an even more enjoyable city and destination with improved air quality and added scenery. Looking at the bigger picture, an active green policy from a major global city such as Paris will hopefully inspire others and have an impact in mitigating climate change.