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mousquet Jan 8, 2015 3:43 PM

France's urban areas: projects & developments
Since I've been a little tired of that traditional, political and economically ineffective Paris is the center of everything fact in France, I think a thread like this may be interesting while regionalism is slowly but gradually growing in the national institutions and culture.

To start off, these are the 50 largest urban areas in France, as defined by INSEE, so you guys can roughly grasp what this will be about even though iy's hardly readable.

Rank (by population) | Urban area | Density (2010) (km²/sq mi) | Population (2011)

1 | Paris | 712 / 1844 | 12,292,895
2 | Lyon | 360 / 932 | 2,188,759
3 | Marseille-Aix-en-Provence | 541 / 1401 | 1,720,941
4 | Toulouse | 228 / 591 | 1,250,251
5 | Lille (French side of the border to Belgium) | 1253 / 3245 | 1,159,547
6 | Bordeaux | 201 / 521 | 1,140,668
7 | Nice | 387 / 1002 | 1,003,947
8 | Nantes | 264 / 684 | 884,275
9 | Strasbourg (French side of the border to Germany) | 346 / 896 | 764,013
10 | Rennes | 178 / 461 | 679,866
11 | Grenoble | 255 / 660 | 675,122
12 | Rouen | 276 / 715 | 655,013
13 | Toulon | 508 / 1316 | 606,987
14 | Montpellier | 328 / 850 | 561,326
15 | Douai-Lens | 801 / 2075 | 542,946
16 | Avignon | 246 / 637 | 515,123
17 | Saint-Étienne | 301 / 780 | 508,548
18 | Tours | 150 / 388 | 480,378
19 | Clermont-Ferrand | 191 / 495 | 467,178
20 | Nancy | 184 / 477 | 434,565
21 | Orléans | 135 / 350 | 421,047
22 | Caen | 220 / 570 | 401,208
23 | Angers | 169 / 438 | 400,428
24 | Metz | 242 / 627 | 389,529
25 | Dijon | 112 / 290 | 375,841
26 | Valenciennes (French side of the border to Belgium) | 574 / 1487 | 367,998
27 | Béthune | 415 / 1075 | 367,924
28 | Le Mans | 169 / 438 | 343,175
29 | Pointe-à-Pitre - Les Abymes | 281 / 728 | 316,599
30 | Reims | 132 / 342 | 315,480
31 | Brest | 315 / 816 | 314,239
32 | Perpignan | 308 / 798 | 305,546
33 | Amiens | 138 / 357 | 293,646
34 | Le Havre | 431 / 1116 | 291,579
35 | Genève-Annemasse (French side of the border to Switzerland) | 237 / 614 | 284,525
36 | Bayonne (French side of the border to Spain) | 225 / 583 | 283,571
37 | Limoges | 122 / 316 | 282,876
38 | Mulhouse | 553 / 1432 | 282,714
39 | Dunkerque | 328 / 850 | 257,887
40 | Nîmes | 324 / 839 | 256,205
41 | Poitiers | 109 / 282 | 254,051
42 | Besançon | 129 / 334 | 245,178
43 | Pau | 162 / 420 | 240,898
44 | Annecy | 283 / 733 | 219,470
45 | Chambéry | 266 / 689 | 216,528
46 | Lorient | 271 / 702 | 214,066
47 | Saint-Nazaire | 242 / 627 | 211,675
48 | La Rochelle | 202 / 523 | 205,822
49 | Saint-Denis (Réunion island) | 686 / 1777 | 197,883
50 | Troyes | 93 / 241 | 190,179

The Paris urban area is not even the most dense since it has sprawled so much. Two of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, the northernmost of the country neighboring Belgium are more dense, especially Lille whose average density leaves me in a wow.

Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux have their own threads on here. This thread could widely focus on French cities whose population figures are less than a million, as my purpose here is to talk about what's happening in cities of minor importance on the global or even continental stages, still major to the national scale. Of course, Toulouse, Lille and Nice may be mentioned here as long as they don't have any thread. Oh well, just feel free to post anything related to any French city including Paris here if you will, this thread will just be convenient for me to bring some news about cities ranked from 4 to 50 from time to time, except for those very few with their own threads on the site.

Besides, I'm doing it for France cause it's obviously by far what I know the most about, so it's easier for me to post about that in particular. But then it'd be great if something similar was done for every Euro country in this subforum, at least when it's relevant like for France itself.

mousquet Jan 8, 2015 3:45 PM

Here's a master plan they call Interives in Orléans, stretching over 110ha (~270 acres) of urban wasteland.

The affected area from above, along some rail tracks at the northern edge of the city, I believe.

There used to be some (likely cheap) housing built in the 1960s. That's what the master plan is to replace.

For now, some 3000 new residential units are planned, and 350,000m² (3.5+ mi sq ft) of offices, hotels and commercial space. Some urban cable cars are supposed to allow the crossing of the rail tracks.
This will be the main master plan and development opportunity to work on in Orléans for the coming decade.

mousquet Jan 8, 2015 3:47 PM

A master plan they call Danube will include a little cluster of tall midrises (or small highrises, whatever) within the new neighborhood.

The black cluster in the background is nicknamed 3 Black Swans.

It's fairly mixed-use. 180 condos, 8000m² of offices, a 5000m² hotel and 2000m² of retail.

The remaining tower in the foreground is called Elithis, residential.

The Danube master plan as a whole, however, seems quite larger. These are just the tallest projects planned over the area so far.

Swede Jan 9, 2015 5:42 AM

That Orleans plan is looking really nice, though I'd up the density of it if it were up to me. Maybe add a couple of floors to everything. But that's me, used to all plans being too low density to create functional urbanity (stop doing that Stockholm!).

Where in Strassbourg is the new district planned for?

mousquet Jan 9, 2015 6:16 AM


Originally Posted by Swede (Post 6868541)
stop doing that Stockholm!.

Hmhmhmhmhm... Are you kidding us? No. Nah! We won't stop doing that.

The Orléans renderings are just master plan renderings, nothing more accurate so far. Architects (from all over the world, I guess) will be competing to have their own dear achievement there.

I didn't even bother to watch at the Strasbourg master plan any closer, because Strasbourg is far better off anyway, and neighboring holy saint Germany. ;) What you see on their renderings is more accurate, and is likely to look cool for real.

I'll bring some more later, I promise. Including Northern, Central, Eastern, Western and Mediterranean France. There's some stuff happening all over that hellish country somehow. It will be for whoever likes it, wherever you may be, whatever you may feel like. It doesn't matter where you are, basically. I swear.

mousquet Jan 12, 2015 4:24 PM

Largest city on the Côte d'Azur, what the English-speaking nickname the Riviera. There's a crazy large plan they call Éco-Vallée, registered as an OIN (opération d'intérêt national, national interest plan), which means the national administration, thus all taxpayers of the country will be involved in supporting and funding the related public projects and infrastructures to some extent. Lucky locals will pay the most for it anyway, and I think it's quite some smart investment given the fame of that coastline as a whole, which makes a highly strategic city of Nice from my perspective.

So Éco-Vallée spreads over some 100km² (38 sq mi). Here's the affected area.

It stretches along the Var river down to the coastline. Again, that is madly large, encompassing several suburban towns as seen on that map. A real long-run plan that is supposed to keep the metro area busy for at least the 3 decades to come.

It is centered on eco-friendly and sustainable development, apparently making an obsession for it. It aims both at restoring and promoting the natural setting of the area that's been a little messed up, probably mainly by sloppy post-war development, and at comforting the economy and the vibrancy of the metro area.

This is what the Éco-Vallée area looks like for now.

A too wide panorama of it:

Includes some traditional Mediterranean villages like these.

Implementation has slightly begun yet. Of course, owing to the scale of this whole thing, it will be divided in several sub-master plans over the course of development that will be gradual. These are the current priorities.

Grand Arénas is an international business district to help the city in taking its place in the global competition, located on the edge of the city of Nice proper and nearby the international airport. It will be developed around a large exhibition and convention facility and a multimodal transit hub (pôle multimodal on the sketch) that will serve both the district and the airport. Although focusing on business, it is planned to be widely mixed-use and socially diverse, providing all kinds of housing (from affordable to better standing), hotels and commercial activities. Obviously, they will not repeat the post-war mistake of a fully purpose-built business district experienced in Paris with the district of la Défense.

They've got these approximate master plan renderings and mockups that seem rather meaningless to me.

They only let us see that the district will be built around the transit hub indeed, but we'll have to wait for the renderings of each individual approved project to understand more accurately what's going on. The transit hub includes high-speed and regular trains to Paris, Marseille and Italy, a urban and interurban bus station, a straight connection to historic Nice through the tram, some parking spaces for bikes and ecars... Access from the airport is outright immediate. Hopefully parking spaces will be hidden underground like shameful things you don't want to see. In fact, Éco-Vallée as a whole plans a wide extension of the transit network.

On the sketch is mentioned the 2nd priority master plan, Nice Méridia, still on the edge of Nice proper (see the 1st map above). It is completely mixed-use as well, aiming at attracting businesses and R&D specialized in sustainable development and healthcare in particular.

These give an idea of the envisioned urban feel, but do not expect any highrise anywhere in there for now. The tallest approved project I heard of so far is a 17-storey mixed-use building in Méridia.

In addition, 2 more master plans have officially been defined, but nothing accurate for now. One in Saint-Martin 20km north of Nice proper (see the 1st map above), another focusing on food industry and horticulture over la Gaude and Saint-Laurent.

Again, all of this has been planned just for the last couple of years and is only beginning. We'll be following the developement. The Côte d'Azur is some of the biggest concentration of money in the country, so I assume we'll see some cool things happening there.

I took all pictures from the website of the official public body in charge of Éco-Vallée, l'établissement public d'aménagement de la Plaine du Var, assuming they won't mind about the hotlinking, since we're talking about their business here.

mousquet Jan 12, 2015 6:59 PM

One of the fastest growing towns in the country if I recall correctly, still on the Med coast but further west going toward Spain from Nice and Marseille, here's the weirdest thing of that tall midrise/small highrise trend taking over France.

Ladies and gents, cheer L'Arbre Blanc (the white tree)...

If you dislike balconies, that will be laughing at you cause they will build that thing for real.

It's 18-story, 56m (184 ft) tall and will join a couple of buildings of that scale in the Montpellier skyline.

So, I'm not going to pretend enjoying the design which several architect firms are guilty of (namely Sou Fujimoto Architects, Nicolas Laisne Associés, Manal Rachdi OXO Architects), but the contents of the program themselves are interesting for mixed-use. 120 condos, some offices, a restaurant and an art gallery on the ground floor, a café offering a panoramic view at the top one. The sale of the condos would start as of late february.

The building has a website if you're interested:

Thx to Chrispic who let me know.

Minato Ku Jan 12, 2015 10:49 PM

The fourth fastest growing large metropolitan area in France.

mousquet Apr 2, 2015 8:01 PM

There's some pretty big development locally on the Atlantic coast, thank God. A cousin of mine had to move over there cause his wife is a local of Nantes and couldn't stand Paris. :haha::rolleyes: Crap, I'm barely astonished when I think about it...

The most striking is the redevelopment of a district they call Malakoff/Pré-Gauchet. It's large, includes a bunch of older residential towers from the late 60s/early 70s that were renovated before the whole new projects started up.

Some pictures to show.

These are from Nov 2014, the most recent on SSC from lebrig. There's a lot of things like this going on like you get lost if you're not a diligent local. I kinda sense a future place to be right there.

That one is from our very French-speaking forum. Lots of new programs scheduled around there that should draw a pretty cool skyline and a nice vibe right on the spot.

Nantes is one of our fastest growing indeed.

Minato Ku Apr 2, 2015 8:53 PM

That's the fifth fastest growing large metropolitan area in France, it is right after Montpellier.

Population growth rate in 2011:
- Toulouse metro area: +1.64%
- Rennes metro area: +1.56%
- Bordeaux metro area: +1.56%
- Montpellier metro area: +1.54%
- Nantes metro area: +1.52%

mousquet Apr 16, 2015 5:01 PM

Nantes (2)
Ah, here's a summery of the development over there. Thx a lot to Maxou from SSC for having compiled these, I was expecting something like this.

1 - A mixed-use program that includes 135 condos and some offices and retail at the 3 lower floors.

Terraces at the top of each column would be part of the commonly owned room, open to all dwellers of the building. Construction has barely begun.

2 - A mixed-use complex currently under construction. There are a student facility and some student housing, 261 apartments (both market-rate condos and social housing), some offices and some retail.

This is it lot by lot.

67 condos.

Social housing.

Student facility.

70 condos and some offices.

Student housing and retail.

3 - A mixed-use, mainly residential complex with some retail at 1st floors. There would be some 72 condos in there.

Some pics of the implementation.

4 - 84 condos in the taller building, offices and retail in the shorter 7-story bar along the boulevard.

Construction site.

The residential building offers an elevator with a panoramic view.

And some balconies cause it seems the French often like that little outdoor feel.

5 - Still under construction, a 3-building complex of 87 condos and some retail along the Loire river.

Alright, that's precisely the kind of things I appreciate. It's all within or around that same modern/contemporary district I mentioned in the previous Nantes post.
That overall area is meant to be both entirely mixed-use and provided with some social housing to remain open to lower incomes.
I think you guys will be interested to see. Of course I hope they eventually plan some real taller buildings. That bunch of 50+m tall structures is already big enough to nicely embed some actual highrises.
Thx to Maxou from Nantes again.

Minato Ku Apr 17, 2015 9:31 PM


Originally Posted by mousquet (Post 6867450)
Since I've been a little tired of that traditional, political and economically ineffective Paris is the center of everything fact in France, I think a thread like this may be interesting while regionalism is slowly but gradually growing in the national institutions and culture.

To start off, these are the 50 largest urban areas in France, as defined by INSEE, so you guys can roughly grasp what this will be about even though iy's hardly readable.

Rank (by population) | Urban area | Density (2010) (km²/sq mi) | Population (2011)

1 | Paris | 712 / 1844 | 12,292,895
2 | Lyon | 360 / 932 | 2,188,759
3 | Marseille-Aix-en-Provence | 541 / 1401 | 1,720,941
4 | Toulouse | 228 / 591 | 1,250,251
5 | Lille (French side of the border to Belgium) | 1253 / 3245 | 1,159,547
6 | Bordeaux | 201 / 521 | 1,140,668

A little note about something that I missed earlier. This is not the urban areas, this is the metropolitan areas.
Metropolitan area as calculated by the INSEE are called "Aire Urbaine" in France.
"Aire Urbaine" are not "Urban Area" (a continuous urbanized area) but a area calculated through commuting patterns (metropolitan area).

In Wikipedia, they mistranslated using only a literal translation instead of a translation of the concept.
I fought against a guy of Wikipedia about this and to make him admit his mistake but he refuses. :koko:

mousquet Apr 19, 2015 6:25 PM

^ Your point is definitely relevant, and Wiki is always a questionable source of information anyway. That said, those various definitions of urban or metro areas have been confusing to non-experts, especially when there's apparently no international standard in that respect yet. So I guess they still depend on local cultural traits.

I'll take INSEE as our major reliable reference as most seem to do.

mousquet Jun 25, 2015 7:02 PM

So France is (unfortunately) no federal system yet. I guess the French are just too immature, vicious and quarrelsome like a bunch of spoiled kids in middle school for such advanced systems, so it's been centralized on the Paris region for ages to keep everyone quiet.

However, "décentralisation" has been a highly fashionable term in national politics for a couple of decades. A decentralization process is indeed underway and has nowhere to go but forward. I'm pretty excited at this trend that might also eventually help clarify up to the EU system of governance, which is seen for now as a massive and motionless technocracy impossible to understand. No doubt France is widely responsible for that.

However, so far and from my point of view, decentralization at France's level has been causing a major painful issue, since it's been mainly consisting in adding new administrations to the older ones, which makes the overall system even more costly, more complicated and less effective.

To my knowledge, we've got now these 5 levels of governance, from the widest to the most local.
  1. État. The national government. There's only one of that thing...
  2. Région. A region. These would be like counterparts of the the US states, the German landers or the Swiss cantons in a better federal system. There are 27 regions until now.
  3. Département. Each region is divided in a couple of those now regarded useless and obsolete. They're much larger than most US counties, so not really comparable to anything out there. There are 101 départements in all.
  4. Intercommunalité. A grouping of municipalities to help them develop common projects. There are over 12,000 intercommunalités.
  5. Commune. A municipality. There are over 36,600 communes.

The 5 overseas regions and the municipality of Paris are also départements.

Now let us see about the count of municipalities in a few comparable countries...
  • 11,250 in Germany.
  • Roughly 8000 in Italy.
  • Roughly 8000 in Spain.
  • Some 9900 in the UK.

From the president of the Republic to the countless municipal councillors, there are 628,000 elected politicians in France (only 24,000 in the UK while their population is roughly the same as ours). You know what that means? Far too many millions of public employees that come along. That's how the public administrations in France are widely seen as an awful mess of inefficiency and a crushing burden that the French taxpayers and private sector have to bear. It will take decades to make that thing more simple and effective.

The current government brought a tiny little bit of the slight beginning of a very shy answer of theirs: merging regions of the metropolitan territory.

Thus far, France's region map looks like those 22 current regions of Metropolitan France.

As of jan 01 2016, there'll be only 13 left.

Those maps come from

That looks like centralizing from decentralizing if you ask me. And you may appreciate the remarkable convenience of some new names, such as "Aquitaine Limousin Poitou-Charentes," or "Alsace Champagne-Ardenne Lorraine..." Um, did I forget any hyphen anywhere in there, by any accident?

I would've rather enforced the countless necessary mergings of municipalities -- e.g. most intercommunalités could become new communes, and lower level communes would merely be erased -- and the obliteration of the useless départements.

Anyway, that's still better than doing nothing, I assume.

Nantais Jun 26, 2015 7:37 PM

Your second map is wrong. Pays-de-la-Loire will not be merged with Centre.

mousquet Jun 27, 2015 4:30 PM

^ Right. Perhaps that's why they're talking about 13 regions while the map is showing only 12.

I suspect Pays-de-la-Loire + Bretagne and Île-de-France + Centre would have made sense to some extent, but then both resulting regions might have been too big and disturbing to the French peculiar understanding of balance.

From what I heard, only 2 of these consolidations are really warmly welcome. Lower + Upper Normandies and Bourgogne + Franche-Comté for historic, cultural and synergy reasons.

I'm not even sure Nord-Pas-de-Calais + Picardie or Auvergne + Rhône-Alpes would be anything obvious, but they seem ok.

The rest of these mergings feels a little odd to me. :haha: Bah, probably just a matter of habits.

mousquet Jun 27, 2015 7:17 PM

Speaking of which, I'm curious to see resulting regional populations.
So I'll do it here as fast as I can by following the latest INSEE data (2012)...
Sorted descending.

Île-de-France (Paris region) => 11,898,502

Auvergne (1,354,104) + Rhône-Alpes (6,341,160) => 7,695,264

Nord-Pas-de-Calais (4,050,756) + Picardie (1,922,342) => 5,973,098

Aquitaine (3,285,970) + Limousin (738,633) + Poitou-Charentes (1,783,991) => 5,808,594

Languedoc-Roussillon (2,700,266) + Midi-Pyrénées (2,926,592) => 5,626,858

Alsace (1,859,869) + Lorraine (2,349,816) + Champagne-Ardenne (1,339,270) => 5,548,955

Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur => 4,935,576

Basse-Normandie (1,477,209) + Haute-Normandie (1,845,547) => 3,322,756

Pays de la Loire => 3,632,614

Bretagne => 3,237,097

Bourgogne (1,641,130) + Franche-Comté (1,175,684) => 2,816,814

Centre(-Val de Loire) => 2,563,586

Réunion (overseas region) => 833,944

Guadeloupe (overseas region) => 403,314

Martinique (overseas region) => 388,364

Corse => 316,257

Guyane (overseas region) => 239,648

Mayotte (overseas region) => 212,645

mousquet Feb 18, 2016 12:29 PM

3 Black Swans (post #3 above) going up on the district of Presqu'Île Malraux.
Picture by RoccatArvo on SSC.

Sold out.

Here's something else over the district of the European parliament.

We'll never thank the Dutch designers enough for having pioneering that fashion of asymmetric patterns. It's been hugely successful, taking modern façades to a much better level.

Many from Strasbourg would hate me for saying, but I don't think the Euro representatives need to leave Brussels to frequently move over there, it's some waste of taxpayer money.
And the city doesn't need them to thrive anyway.

mousquet Mar 13, 2016 10:03 AM

I'm excited at mainland France's regional consolidations.

Most are now sizable enough to be significant in a prospective European federal system.
Somehow, it has to be a good reform.

I just saw from watching the news, people will very soon be voting for the new designations of the regions whose current names are too long to be convenient. Of course locals themselves will keep on making a little difference between former administrative regions for some time yet, like Alsace and Lorraine will still make some fun of one another, but I think outsiders will quickly forget.

As I said already, I think there are 2 upgrades left to be done.
Brittany + Pays de la Loire for sure, that could be named Greater Brittany.
And possibly Centre-Val-de-Loire + Île-de-France, if people from the former don't deny the Parisians. Lol

mousquet Mar 15, 2016 4:46 AM

Hauts-de-France. Something like Upper France. That's the new name of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, the first to earn her new official name. It was passed by the regional council yesterday.

It seems many in the country are laughing at it - too many in France have had difficulties to acknowledge the need for change, unfortunately - and even locals of the region don't seem satisfied, especially those from former Picardie. They say they're losing their local historic identity. Nonsense. It will survive within the larger administrative body anyway.

The decision for this new administrative division was made by the national government in Paris. I guess the European Commission itself in Brussels could have passed a reform of this kind. That's what people don't like, especially the conservatives here. The fact that it came from the central government and was enforced without really consulting the people.

But here's my personal point. The reform was passed anyhow, no matter how we like it or not. So now we all must take it as something positive. I think regional councils will eventually be stronger from these mergings, that's precisely the good point to definitely help us finally push decentralization further.

People are funny here sometimes. They want more local powers for themselves, but then complain whenever anything is done in favor of regional prerogatives. The former regions were too small. That's it. Now we have them quite larger, so they might be able to achieve bigger things on their own.

Regarding the name itself, meh, I'm a little disappointed myself. It's kind of random and raises the question to know what France is. Huge question, hard to answer. I think France originally meant something like "land of the Franks", but the Franks came down from what is now the Netherlands and from some neighboring areas of current Germany some 1500 years ago. So one may deduce there are even some other kinds of "France" north of the region now called Hauts-de-France... Lol, I dunno.

Whatever, we'll get used to the new name. When all new names are chosen, I'll let you guys know. I find it funny and exciting, just like some new bigger toys or something.

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