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Eagerly awaited, Les Halles renovation enters the homestretch
A short walk north of the Seine in the heart of Paris, the Les Halles neighborhood is home to 7000 residents and over 16,400 jobs. The Châtelet-Les Halles RER commuter rail and subway station is the largest transport hub in the Ile de France region, serving over 800,000 passengers per day. It doubles as a massive underground shopping mall and cinema, and a 4-acre garden.
Les Halles is Paris’ historical central market, already a bustling place in the 12th century. Émile Zola called it Le Ventre de Paris (the belly of Paris) in his novel of the same name. The original central fresh food market was demolished in 1971 and replaced with the Forum, a modern, multi-level underground mall and commuter rail and metro stations. Considered almost universally to be an eyesore, three decades later plans were begin for an overhaul. Refurbishing this busy structure without shutting down its operations would not be a simple task.
Works to completely transform Les Halles started in 2012 under the creative helm of architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti.The light and fluid transparent roof of the new building will reach the same height as the surrounding treetops, and connect two new buildings housing cultural activities on the upper level – a conservatory, a library and a dance center – and shops at ground level. A translucent, undulating canopy made of 16,000 individual glass panels hovers over a large pedestrian zone that weaves together the garden, patio and RER train station entrance.
The city of Paris embarked on this mammoth project to the tune of €1.06 billion, of which €236 million were earmarked for the canopy alone. Le Figaro reports that construction of la canopée is approaching its final phase, and shops are expected to open as early as January 2016. The cultural spaces are scheduled to open two months after.
The project is expected to bring a new élan to the already highly popular quartier. Meilleurs Agents reports that the average price per square meter for Les Halles is €9,179 – 12.5% higher than the average for Paris overall. Prices for top properties in the neighborhood can reach nearly €14,000 per square meter.
Photo by Jmex CC BY-SA 4.0
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