A €250 million project has been approved that will turn the Champs-Elysées in Paris into a pedestrian-friendly avenue, planted with trees, by 2030. Rose Dykins reports
The French capital’s famous Champs-Elysées shopping avenue is slated to become an “extraordinary” garden, according to the city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, speaking to Le Journal du Dimanche.
Plans have been drawn up to reduce the space for vehicles by half, transform the avenue’s roads into green spaces for pedestrians, and create a “tunnel of trees” to improve the surrounding air quality.
Architect Philippe Chiambaretta and his agency PCA-Stream came up with the designs to turn the 1.9km Champs-Elysées into a more user-friendly, inviting and healthy public promenade.According to research carried out by PCA-Stream, two thirds of all pedestrians along the avenue are tourists. Meanwhile, Parisians account for just 5 per cent of pedestrians. The research found that locals avoid the area due to overtourism, traffic, and high pollution levels.
The Champs-Elysées committee, which has been campaigning for the redesign of the area since 2018, states: “The legendary avenue has lost its splendour over the past 30 years. It has been progressively abandoned by Parisians and has been hit by several successive crises: the gilets jaunes [the yellow vests grassroots movement for economic justice, with mass demonstrations in 2018], strikes, health and economic crises etc.”The committee hosted a public consultation about what should be done to improve the Champs-Elysées and invited PCA-Stream to come up with plans to revitalise what is known as “the world’s most beautiful avenue”.
The €250 million project from PCA-Stream will begin by redeveloping the Place de la Concorde square at the south-east of the Champs-Elysées – which is the largest public square in Paris. This is set to be completed by 2024 by the time Paris hosts the Olympics, with the rest of the avenue to be completely renovated by 2030.Named after Elysian Fields – a mythical Greek paradise – Champs Elysées was initially designed by King Louis XIV’s garderner, André le Nôtre, as a grand promenade line with elm trees. Later, in 1709, it was renamed the Champs-Elysées and extended, and it became a popular spot for picnics by the end of the century.
In 2021, although the avenue has remained a site for historical crowd-gathering events, celebrations and demonstrations, it is largely avoided by Parisians. The plans to revitalise, cutting down the congestion, and offer something more appealing for locals than the expensive luxury shops and restaurants that attract tourists, should be a catalyst for change.Paris’s plans to create more pedestrian-friendly, green space in the heart of its city centre mirrors what’s going on in cities all over the world, with the Covid-19 pandemic having sped up this trend. There has never been a greater need for well-planned urban gardens that create outdoor, green space for city dwellers.
Hidalgo also told Le Journal du Dimanche that, along with the Champs Elysées project, more blueprints are on the way to transform the French capital “before and after 2024”, including reconfiguring the area around the Eiffel Tower into an urban park.