If you’ve ever visited Paris, you probably took a stroll on the city’s most famous street, the Champs-Elysées, which connects the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde. But if you visit again in a few years, it may look very different, as Paris is transforming the Champs-Elysées into a garden and green space for pedestrians.
Paris is turning the Champs-Elysées into a green space.
On Jan. 11, 2021, Paris’ Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced a major €250 million ($304 million USD) renovation of the Champs-Elysées (which is filled with shops and heavy traffic), the Place de la Concorde, and the area surrounding the Arc de Triomphe. According to The Guardian, the avenue currently has eight car lanes, with around 3,000 cars driving through every hour.
This project plans to reduce that to four traffic lanes, and turn the rest of the road into wider sidewalks, green spaces, playgrounds, food kiosks, and “planted living rooms,” as per the architecture firm designing the renovation, PCA-STREAM. These changes will not only enhance air quality, but also provide more space for pedestrians to walk.
And there are a lot of pedestrians. According to the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, nearly 300,000 people visit the Champs-Elysées every single day. And as per PCA-STREAM, just 5 percent of foot traffic on the Champs-Elysées are locals, while around 68 percent of visitors are tourists.
The project hopes to make the Champs-Elysées more attractive to Parisians.
It seems like the government is hoping the changes will make the legendary street more attractive to locals. PCA-STREAM says that Parisians “reject” the Champs-Elysées, due to factors including too much consumption, noise, pollution, tourism, and traffic.
“The legendary avenue has lost its splendour during the last 30 years,” the Champs-Élysées committee, who has been lobbying for a renovation for several years, said in a statement, as per The Guardian. “It has been progressively abandoned by Parisians and has been hit by several successive crises: the gilets jaunes, strikes, health and economic.” The gilets jaunes, French for yellow vests, is a grassroots protest movement campaigning to overthrow President Emmanuel Macron and replace democracy in France.
Additionally, the change could be a welcome one for those who drive through the area on a regular basis. Whenever I think back to my visit to the Champs-Elysées and Arc de Triomphe back in 2012, my memories are immediately clouded by the chaotic, 12-lane roundabout surrounding the monument. Formally known as the Place Charles de Gaulle, aka the Étoile intersection, this roundabout has been named one of the most hectic junctions in the world.
Fortunately, PCA-STREAM plans to turn the traffic roundabout into a public plaza, called the Étoile promenade.
The new Champs-Elysées won't be complete for a few years.
All that being said, Parisians will have to wait a bit longer for a new Champs-Elysées. As reported by CNN, Mayor Hidalgo said the first step will be renovating the Place de la Concorde, the famous public square where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were guillotined, located at the opposite end of the street from the Arc de Triomphe.
The Place de la Concorde renovation is expected to be complete sometime before July 2024, when Paris hosts the Summer Olympics; after the sporting event, the rest of the renovation will take place, and more details on the timeline will come out sometime in January 2021.