The City of Light's future is bright: visitor numbers are at a record high, the economy is being revitalised, a raft of infrastructure projects are underway, and the capital is gearing up to host 2023 Rugby World Cup fixtures and the 2024 Summer Olympics and Summer Paralympics. Meanwhile, Paris 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.
Major transport developments also 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.
Conversely, inner Paris is shrinking, at least administratively. From 2020, its four central arrondissements, the 1er, 2e, 3e and 4e, will be governed by a single mayor, based at the Mairie du 3e (the 3e's town hall), to better balance services such as childcare based on the number of residents (the 15e has 15 times the population of the 1er arrondissement). The location was voted on by the arrondissements' residents in 2018, who in the same ballot also chose a new name for the district, 'Paris Centre'.
While Paris will only have 17 mayors, the postcodes and addresses of all 20 arrondissements remain the same.
Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo is focused on greening the city and minimising 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, established an annual car-free day and 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 within the bd Périphérique 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.
Busy intersections such as place de la Madeleine and Nation have been redesigned to reduce traffic flow. A 'pedestrian peninsula' linking place de la Bastille with the Port de l'Arsenal marina is also scheduled to open in 2020.
Other goals include 100 hectares of green roofs, facades and vertical walls, a third of which will be devoted to urban agriculture.
Hidalgo, who will stand for a second six-year mayoral term in 2020, is also pushing for Paris' four central arrondissements to be pedestrianised.
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, the Tour Triangle, a glittering triangular glass tower designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, will, when it opens in 2024, be the first skyscraper in Paris since 1973's Tour Montparnasse (itself set to get a new reflective façade and green rooftop by 2023). 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.