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Local Matters / Changing Landscape

Paris to Convert a Third of Its Underutilized Office Space into Residential Housing by 2020

Photo by Groume via Flickr

In another significant step intended to invigorate the city, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has pledged to transform 250,000 square meters (m²) of Paris offices into residential housing by the year 2020.

The city intends to target buildings that are unused, partially used, or needing substantial renovation. Its goals are in line with the sustainability objectives of the city: favor the rehabilitation of old buildings over new construction with the ultimate goal of preserving what little remains of un-built land in the capital. The change of use of commercial spaces to residential ones is meant not only to address the shortage of affordable housing in the capital, but also to encourage a more diverse population.

A recent study by the Paris Urban Planning Agency (APUR) revealed that the potential for repurposing office space in Paris is higher than once thought: out of the 18 million square meters of Parisian office buildings, 840.000 m² have the potential to be transformed into homes.

“Transforming office space into homes is an absolute priority, because if we want more housing, we clearly have to start with existing buildings,” said Ian Brossat, Deputy Mayor in charge of housing. “Paris is the densest city in Europe.”

From 2001 to 2012, more than 350,000 square meters of office space were converted to residential housing – an average of 30,000 m² per year. A notable result is the Maison des Générations in the 4th arrondissement, which houses a cross-generational mix of young workers and elderly residents. Under Mayor Hidalgo’s plan, the pace will need to be picked up significantly – to an average of 50,000 m² per year – to reach the 2020 deadline.

A number of potential candidates are buildings in the 8th and 9th arrondissements, reports l’Observateur, largely Haussmann-era buildings whose architecture lends itself to this transformation. The Mayor has asked the federal government for certain allowances for targeted buildings, including temporary exemptions from property tax and added flexibility on certain rules such as ceiling height and parking spaces.

The ambitious transformation project can be viewed in an extensive exhibition Paris à Venir: Métamorphoses (Paris to come: Metamorphoses) at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in the 4th arrondissement. Created in 1988 this “centre for information, documentation and exhibition for urban planning and architecture of Paris” showcases urban development and architectural projects in the capital.

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