PARIS — Forget yesteryear’s Forum des Halles.
After five years of refurbishment led by French property developer Unibail-Rodamco, Paris’ most central shopping mall is preparing for its grand reopening. New features include an additional 160,000 square feet of selling space on the ground floor and a dramatic canopy.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and Unibail-Rodamco chief executive officer Christophe Cuvillier are slated to cut the ribbon on April 5.
The canopy, designed by Paris-based architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti, will include 97,000 square feet of retail space. It will be home to 18 banners including Nike, Sephora, Lego and Superdry, with stores of respectively 8,610 square feet; 7,000; 3,300 and 5,380.
There will also be a 5,380-square-foot concept store called L’Exception dedicated to upstart labels, the brainchild of Régis Pennel, founder of the online store of the same name specializing in French brands including Kenzo, Carven and Maison Kitsuné.
“With this high-end concept, we’re aiming to attract tourists and to reconquer Parisians alike,” managing director retail France Valérie Britay told a press conference on Thursday.
The conference was held in the chilly space of the upcoming restaurant Champeaux, a brasserie by Alain Ducasse with a stunning view on the Saint-Eustache church. It’s one of the two restaurants under the canopy alongside Za, a hip bistro designed by Philippe Starck, by the team of Ma Cocotte in Saint-Ouen flea market.
Existing stores are being refurbished, too. For example, the H&M unit is set to reopen in summer covering 56,000 square feet on four floors, versus three floors, and will include the H&M Home concept, while Bershka will be on two floors, doubling its square footage.
“We renewed 70 percent of the surface,” said Britay.
The shopping center will be home to a total of 150 stores, versus 115 before.
“Our aim was to turn an underground world into a space that is bright, airy,” said Patrick Roux, managing director of Saguez Partners, who noted that the shopping mall that opened in 1979 was mocked by some locals as a hole.
“It was anxiogenic,” Alexis Véron, the shopping mall manager told WWD, adding that the renovated space will be more connected to the city, with 14 entrances, versus 10 in the past.
Paris-based Seura Architectes is behind the garden and the interior design of the shopping mall, the latter in collaboration with Saguez Partners.
The nearly 10-acre greenspace named Nelson Mandela Park was designed to be like a plain meadow with the Champ de Mars in mind.
It was a 918 million euros ($1 billion at current exchange) project for the city, which included a 238 million euros ($260 million) contribution paid by Unibail-Rodamco. Unibail-Rodamco also spent an additional 105 million euros, $115 at current exchange, on the renovation of the shopping mall, for a total of 343 million euros, or $375 million. By comparison, the Saint Jean de Cagnes shopping center, located in Cagnes-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, was built from scratch at a cost of 350 million euros, or $382 million.
With Paris still on edge following the terror attacks last November, a special attention will be paid to safety. Unibail-Rodamco, in collaboration with Paris’ police prefecture, will put in place 400 video cameras, as well as a Brigade Spéciale de Terrain, or “special field brigade.” The BST safety plan is only deployed on two other sites — the Avenue des Champs-Elysées and the Gare du Nord station, Véron explained.
Starting in April, the shopping center will officially be under the rule of International Tourist Zone, therefore allowed to open on Sundays.
Le Forum des Halles drew an average of 37 million visitors annually in the last five years. The French property developer expects it will draw 40 million by the end of 2017 or early 2018. It would thus rank as the second busiest shopping mall in continental Europe after Les Quatre Temps, the shopping in the business district of La Défense which drew 46 million visitors in 2015.