Renovation project of Gare du Nord station in Paris slammed by experts
After being given the green light by the National Commercial Planning Commission (CNAC) at the end of 2019, the renovation and extension project of the Gare du Nord station in Paris has been strongly challenged by four experts appointed by the Paris mayor’s office, which stopped backing the project last summer.
The project is spearheaded by Ceetrus, a commercial real estate developer owned by the Auchan group which is investing €600 million in the renovation. The latter would broaden the station’s commercial area by 16,321 m2, by means of a new building constructed between the station’s existing platforms and the RER and underground stations area to the east of the platforms. This would triple the station’s total surface area, also adding to it an 11,000 m2 roof garden accessible to passengers and local residents.
But, according to the experts’ report published on January 6, the project is set to cause “major issues” in terms of pedestrian traffic congestion inside and outside the station. The report also highlighted problems for the station’s security, how the passengers’ pathways would become longer and less efficient, and indicated that planning, notably in commercial terms, isn’t fit for purpose.
Specifically, the report criticised the idea of transforming the station in a hub for the neighbourhood. Stores, event venues, sport facilities and co-working spaces are expected to add an extra 10% in footfall to the station, which is currently struggling to accommodate the 700,000 travellers passing through it on a daily basis. Something which French national railway company SNCF hopes to manage by separating the departures and arrivals areas.
Pierre Veltz, urban planner and spokesperson for the experts, is adamant that the project is unsuitable. He did not even wait for the report’s publication to clearly state his opposition to it in forums on French newspapers Le Monde and Libération. It is a sizeable challenge for the Paris authorities, since Ceetrus stands to obtain a 42-year concession in exchange for the renovation. In addition, there is an element of urgency in the planning, as the initial goal was to complete the renovation work for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Jean-Louis Missika, the mayor’s deputy in charge of urban planning, has called for talks to continue, insisting on the need for a consensus on the project. The public enquiry on the Gare du Nord ends on January 8, and a report will be submitted to the regional authorities in the following days.
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