Opposition to the Paris’ Biggest Construction Project since Disneyland Continues
Europacity is the biggest construction project in Paris since Disneyland was completed in 1992, and has provoked fervent opposition from multiple sections of society.
Were Europacity‘s construction start date of 2019 to be delayed, it would not be the first. Construction on Disneyland started more than a decade after planning finished, while Nantes’ proposed airport has been planned for almost half a century only to be blocked by local interest groups at every turn.
The commercial park, set to open in 2024 if all goes smoothly, will feature 500 stores, a ski slope, 2,700 hotel rooms and create 11,800 jobs. Europacity will be strategically placed in between Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris’ centre, and its developers – French supermarket giant Auchan and Chinese property developer Wanda – claim it will attract 30 million visitors a year, the same as Paris does currently.
Eight mayors of nearby communes signed a letter of opposition in March last year, including those from Tremblay-en-France, Aulnay-sous-Bois, Le Bourget and Sevran. They see the project as one that caters to “neither the needs of locals, nor environmental issues, and will severely affect local employment and commercial prospects,” citing the likelihood that Europacity will swallow up local commerce. Proponents of Europacity have pointed out that 100% of the park’s energy needs will be met with on-site renewables.
There was a huge local protest in early May covered by both ecology websites and business magazines. The Gazette Debout – mouthpiece of last year’s Nuit Debout movement – wrote an accompanying piece titled ‘Radis pas Caddies’, which translates as ‘radishes not shopping carts.” Others note attendees similarly shouting “Des champs, pas d’Auchan!” (“Fields, not Auchan!”).
It is fair to say that locally Europacity will never be viewed as a good thing, and it is not just a case of Nimbyism. Even Auchun admit that their own sales have fallen as part of a wider societal switch in France to local and environmentally conscious commerce. But the project has already received much investment and France’s dire need for job creation means those responsible for the wider economy cannot but support it.
Previous Presidents Hollande and Sarkozy did and while Macron has not yet had to reveal his own position the chance of France’s most pro-business president ever opposing it are slim. Europacity is part of a wider development of Paris’ suburbs (the park will be located next to the new Gonesse metro station on the future line 17) in an effort to bring economic prosperity to the wider region. When Europacity goes ahead, expect once arid and unappealing corners of Ile-de-France to become fertile investment terrain.
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