Paris to Give the Champs Elysées a Grand Green Makeover

Sustainability is coming to the iconic Parisian neighborhood along with cleaner air and an emphasis on local businesses.

“The world’s most beautiful avenue,” the Champs Elysées in Paris, is about to get a big makeover as part of the city’s sustainability commitment. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo approved the new decade-long $305 million project, “Re-Enchanting the Champs Elysées,” this week.

Over the course of the next nine years, the 2.3-kilometer strip that runs from the Place de La Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe will undergo a green transformation. Architect Philippe Chiambaretta and his agency, PCA-STREAM, are bringing the vision to life.

The project includes halving the space for cars and upping trees and green spaces, in what the agency calls “planted ‘living rooms.” The strip will also prioritize small, local shops rather than chain stores currently parked on either side of the avenue.

Photo by Arthur Humeau on Unsplash

Reclaiming a Landmark

The move comes as public opinion of the iconic thoroughfare has been on the decline, according to a 2019 survey. Parisians, in particular, have chided the region for its congestion, pollution, and high-priced tourist attractions. The city’s proposal echoed the local concern. It cited the avenue as filled with “big international chains perceived as antiseptic and scarcely distinguishable.”

But the city hopes a greener space with fewer cars and more trees will have an impact. It’s seen shifts with similar endeavors across Paris, but none quite as lofty as this. The renderings show sidewalks doubling in width and bike paths on both sides of the street. Car lanes will shrink to four and car speed limits will also be reduced.

The Place de la Corcorde will see extensive plantings, including tree-shaded lawns. The city will also take over streets in entirety with grass and shrubs. This upgrade is expected to happen ahead of the 2024 Olympics. It will also allow for walking entirely in a green space between the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe.

The city hopes the transformation will increase pedestrian traffic (to even higher than pre-pandemic levels). “The mythical avenue has lost its splendor over the last 30 years,” the committee said in a statement. The 2019 survey found more than 70 percent of Parisians saw the Champs Elysées area as too trendy. Thirty percent disagreed with its long-standing “most beautiful” moniker.

“It has been progressively abandoned by Parisians,” the committee said, “and has suffered a number of crises: the gilets jaunes [anti-government], strikes, the health and economic crisis.”

The city will announce more updates to the plan next week.

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