Paris has bounced back in a big way since the turbulent events of 2015: visitor numbers are at a record high, energetic president Emmanuel Macron is revitalising France's economy, a raft of infrastructure projects are under way, and the capital is gearing up to host 2023 Rugby World Cup fixtures and the 2024 Summer Olympics and Summer Paralympics. The city continues to become greener, with eco-initiatives including more car-free and reduced-traffic areas prioritising pedestrians and cyclists.
The gargantuan Grand Paris (Greater Paris) redevelopment project will ultimately connect the outer suburbs beyond the bd Périphérique ring road with the city proper. This is a significant break in the physical and conceptual barrier that the périphérique has imposed until now, but, due to the steadily growing suburban population (10.5 million, compared to 2.2 million inside the périphérique), a real need to redefine Paris, on both an administrative and an infrastructural scale, has arisen.
The crux of Grand Paris is a massive decentralised metro expansion, with four new metro lines, the extension of several existing lines, and a total of 68 new stations, with a target completion date of 2030. The principal goal is to connect the suburbs with one another, instead of relying on a central inner-city hub from which all lines radiate outwards. Ultimately, the surrounding suburbs – Vincennes, Neuilly, Issy, St-Denis etc – will lose their autonomy and become part of a much larger Grand Paris governed by the Hôtel de Ville.
Other major transport developments include a high-speed train link between Charles de Gaulle Airport and central Paris by 2024. Orly Airport will be served by metro from 2024 and high-speed train by 2025.
Architectural change doesn't come easy in Paris, given the need to balance the city's heritage with demands on space. But new projects continue to gather steam. At Porte de Versailles, 2019's Tour Triangle, a glittering triangular glass tower designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, will be the first skyscraper in Paris since 1973's Tour Montparnasse (itself set to get a new reflective facade and green rooftop). Other high-rise projects include Duo, two Jean Nouvel–designed towers (180m and 122m) in the 13e, slated for completion in 2020.
Nouvel is also among the architects working on the 74-hectare Île Seguin-Rives de Seine development of the former Renault plant on a Seine island in Boulogne-Billancourt, which is becoming a Grand Paris cultural hub; concert venue La Seine Musicale was the first to arrive, in 2017. Another Nouvel project is Gare d'Austerlitz' multimillion-euro renovation, with hotels and a 20,000-sq-metre shopping area, wrapping up in 2021.
Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo is focused on greening the city and reducing car traffic and pollution. Since taking office in 2014, Hidalgo has pedestrianised 3.3km of Right Bank expressway between the Tuileries and Bastille, closed the av des Champs-Élysées on the first Sunday of each month, and established an annual car-free day. In 2017 the city introduced the Crit'Air Vignette (compulsory anti-pollution sticker) for vehicles registered after 1997 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday (older vehicles are banned during these hours). Ongoing projects include investing €150 million in cycling infrastructure (including an av des Champs-Élysées cycling lane), reducing parking spaces by 55,000 per year, instigating a city-wide maximum speed limit of 30km/h (except along major arteries) by 2020 to minimise noise pollution, and banning diesel cars by 2024 and petrol cars by 2030.
Transport aside, green initiatives include a goal of 100 hectares of green roofs, facades and vertical walls, a third of which will be devoted to urban agriculture. Green walkways and gardens will connect two of Paris' busiest mainline stations – Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est – from 2019. A 'pedestrian peninsula' linking place de la Bastille with the Port de l'Arsenal marina is also scheduled to open the same year.
In order to compete with other key European cities to attract tourism and investment, Paris has established ZTIs (international tourist zones) that allow late-night and Sunday trading for shops. There are a dozen such zones to date.
Forward steps also include the 2017 opening of the world's biggest start-up campus, Station F, in the 13e, home to some 3000 entrepreneurs. It was inaugurated by President Macron, who is seeking to bring more businesses to the city and country. Unemployment is now at its lowest level since 2009, with a series of labour reforms expected to reduce it even further. The City of Light's future is bright.