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Local Matters / Changing Landscape

United States embassy and City of Paris locked in building permit battle

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A real estate venture has been sowing dissension between the United States embassy in Paris and city authorities for 10 years. The embassy’s plan to build staff housing has been repeatedly vetoed by the city, but a decision may soon be reached.

A divisive real estate project is causing problems between Paris and the United States embassy. The issue stems from the latter’s intent to build staff housing on a strip of land considered worthy of heritage protection by the City of Paris.

The U.S. administration has been struggling for 10 years to build professional accommodation near the ambassador’s residence in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. The project involves a three-story building with 52 parking spaces, located in the ambassador’s gardens, between the embassy and the Palais de l’Elysée, the French presidential residence.

Legally, the land belongs to the United States, and is therefore considered a foreign territory in France. Nonetheless, the City of Paris has so far opposed the project on the grounds that the area is considered to be a national heritage.

Indeed, the Architects of France’s Buildings (ABF) — high-level architecture and urban planning civil servants — wish to classify it as a protected natural site. Their request to do so was dismissed in 2010 by the Paris Administrative Court, and since then, the State itself has seized the matter.

It now falls on Ségolène Royal, the Minister for the Environment, to decide whether or not to issue the building permit, in what is now both a neighborhood construction issue and a matter of international relations. A meeting during which a verdict will be reached is set to take place in coming days.

Alexandre Gady, head of the Society for the Protection of Landscapes and French Aesthetic (SPPEF), has explained that “while this is not a major scandal,” it is a case of “densifying an already fragile site.” Instead, “Paris needs more outdoor spaces and gardens.”

Meanwhile, the embassy has assured it will not commence construction “without obtaining proper authorization.”

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Krokodyl

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