Paris suburb to be transformed with €2.8bn train, hotel and trendy cafes


Today, President Emmanuel Macron will inaugurate the last and perhaps most important Olympic-related project: not another stadium, but a metro station, Saint-Denis-Pleyel.

It is the new terminus of the 14th line, named Project Météoir, which will link Orly airport in the south with the northern suburbs around Saint-Denis. More stations will open by the end of the year, making it the longest of Paris' 16 metro lines, covering 30km and 21 stations.

Saint-Denis has long been notorious for drugs, violence and racial animosity depicted in the 1995 film. dislike, But to the architects of the Grand Paris plan, it's the El Dorado of the future: Macron has described the region as a potential new California, and a bid to host the 2024 Olympics was seen as a key component of the vision.

What happened in post-industrial East London after the 2012 London Olympics is now happening in Paris: blighted sites are being transformed into smart living and entertainment destinations.

The whole project can be seen from 130 metres above the tube station: sports facilities, food courts and scores of new apartments are springing up across this vast urban plain once known as the “Manchester of France”.

I'm in the sky bar on the 39th floor of H4 Hotel Wyndham Pleyel, the latest iteration of the iconic 1970s skyscraper office building, Tour Pleyel, named after France's leading piano manufacturer.

Below you can see the futuristic oval canopy of the Stade de France, built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. A long walkway over the highway connects it to the new Olympic Aquatics Centre, and the Athletes' Village sits on the eastern bank of the Seine.

A kilometre south on the Boulevard Périphérique, near the Porte de la Chapelle, stands the home of Paris basketball, the new Adidas Arena, next to an elevated road that until recently was called the Spaghetti Flyover. Crack Mountain The residents of (Crack Hill) were bused out, as were many of the homeless who still pitch their colorful tents under the bridge on the banks of the canal. It's now a historical tourist site, visited by boat tours eager to show off the street art but with little interest from the homeless.

93 Seine-Saint-Denis Le France Region / Saint-Denis: Pleyel Tower and Carrefour Pleyel area / Stade de France and the A86 motorway in the background / Landi Technical Centre in the foreground
Saint-Denis from the air (Photo: Ph. Guignard)

Adidas Arena's post-Olympic role: neighborhood An enhanced Stade de France and athletes' village in La Chapelle would mirror what is expected in Saint-Denis and Saint-Ouen.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has commented that the Rue de la Chapelle could become the new Champs-Élysées. Currently, the Rue de la Chapelle is an unfinished mess. Plantification (urban plantings) and unpaved sidewalks.

But this is an overlooked corner of Paris' history that's worth saving. Once a Roman road, then a ceremonial route for royal funeral processions to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, Estrées still retains some charming little hamlets, like the covered olive market built in 1885 behind the old church of Saint-Denis-de-la-Chapelle, although Afghan kebab shops and Algerian eateries are far more numerous. Supermarket.

The towering Gothic Basilica of Saint-Denis remains the main attraction, but the supporting cast spans the centuries, from Saint-Ouen-le-Vieux, a modest medieval little church perched on a wooded promontory next to the Athletes' Village, through six large utilitarian mosques, to the glittering corporate Church of Scientology and Celebrity Centre.

Communale Saint-Denis Paris Image via lucas@armance.co
The area has undergone a major transformation ahead of the Olympics (photo: Jacques de Rouge)

The cathedral towers over the elegant 19th-century town hall, bustling café-restaurants and the Eiffel Tower-like steel-framed Saint-Denis Market, site of an important medieval market and today the largest and most multi-ethnic in the region.

Saint-Denis has a lot to offer tourists beyond Olympic and Paralympic ticket buyers, and not all of it is conventional: in one day you can sample the latest African regional cuisine at a market stall or attend a funeral mass in Latin for the executed King Louis VI alongside impeccably dressed faithful. left bank Royalist.

But the suburb has a long way to go before it can gentrify. Meanwhile, neighbouring Saint-Ouen is churning, buoyed by a flea market that began in 1870 and is now an international centre for antiques, attracting five million visitors a year. The old bistros and one-star hotels of Marché aux Puces compete with new, fashionable caves-à-manges and trend-setting mob hotels, like Bonne Aventures and Jean-Jean. Luxury residential developments such as Village des Rosiers are transforming this once-scratchy neighbourhood into something that feels a little like Macron's French Los Angeles.

H Hotel bar with city views (Photo courtesy: Courtesy)

Activities have now shifted to the centre of Saint-Ouen, around the magnificent town hall and the major new metro station, which opened in December 2020 as part of the Line 14 development.

The area is fast becoming surrounded by smart apartment blocks, the fashionable Hotel Tribe, and the forerunners of the little cafés typical of the neighbouring hipster enclaves of the 10th and 19th arrondissements.

Opposite a dilapidated steel-framed 1970s skating rink is the revival of Le Repailleur, a '50s corner bistro epitomizing the kind of Canal Saint-Martin-style hipsterism brought across the border. Soon to open Bouillon du Coq, where Communist Party politicians and trade union leaders traded business with businessmen over three-hour lunches, star chef Thierry Marx is serving up his own take on popular working-class cuisine in Bouillon's recent revival.

This photo taken on March 28, 2024 shows an aquatics centre being built in Saint-Denis near Paris that will be used for swimming, diving and water polo at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The building was designed by VenhoevenCS & Ateliers 2/3/4/. The Seine-Saint-Denis department, north of Paris, will host a range of events for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in venues including the Stade de France, an aquatics centre and an athletes' village. (Dimiter Dilkov/AFP) (Dimiter Dilkov/AFP via Getty Images)
The aquatics centre built for the 2024 Paris Olympics (Photo: DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty)

An even bigger gourmet spot is already thriving in the old docks area: Communale, a huge food court converted from a locomotive workshop that resembles a more sanitized version of the Saint-Denis market.

Some of the redevelopment is spectacular, but if the experience of London 2012 is any indication, it will take another decade or so for the full effects to be felt. Meanwhile, Paris's less fashionable neighbourhoods are getting a makeover: 15km south on Route 14, another landmark 1970s tower complex, Les Olympiades, has just started a €100m (£84.5m) makeover.

From your top-floor apartment, you can almost see the Skybar at the Wyndham Pleyel Hotel, and hop on the metro to get there before the bartender has finished making your cocktail.

directions

Paris Metro line 14 stops at Châtelet station, from where you can change to line 4 for Gare du Nord and the Eurostar. Continue south to Paris-Orly airport. ratp.fr

Staying there

Double rooms at H4 Hotel Wyndham Pleyel start from €152 from h-hotels.com.

Mob Hotel offers double rooms from €79 (mobhotel.com).

Double rooms at Tribe Hotel from £107. all.accor.com

Eat and drink there

Le Repailleur, leripaileur.fr

Le Bouillon du Coq, lebouillonducoq.com

Communal, communalesaintouen.com

For more information

parisjetaime.com/eng





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