PARIS — Is the so-called most beautiful avenue in the world about to get a makeover? Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo flagged plans to transform it into an “extraordinary garden,” along with the space surrounding the Eiffel Tower, in the not-so-distant future. The city is gearing up to host the 2024 Olympic Games, embarking on a number of projects of urban revival for the event.
“As for the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, we are are going to redo the Place de la Concorde before the Olympics, followed by the entire avenue. It will be another extraordinary garden,” said Hidalgo, after describing plans to transform the city’s northern entrance, the Porte de la Chapelle, into a green space and remake the grounds surrounding the Eiffel Tower into an “extraordinary garden,” in an interview with the French weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche.
The avenue’s lobby group, the Comité Champs-Élysées, welcomed the mayor’s proclamation, and flagged plans to actively be involved in the project, noting it had begun exploring ideas for reviving the strip in 2018.
The lobby group presented its ideas in 2019, noting the legendary avenue had lost its charm over the past 30 years.
“We think that the Champs-Élysées deserves a big project,” said Jean-Noël Reinhardt, president of the Comité Champs-Élysées, at the group’s presentation of ideas for rejuvenating the avenue.
Tens of thousands of cars charge down the avenue each day, generating high levels of pollution.
While local and international names like Apple, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Adidas, Galeries Lafayette and most recently Moncler have invested in sprawling flagships on the avenue, which fetches some of the highest rents in the world, its image has been dented in recent years by violent yellow vest protests. Before the coronavirus pandemic grounded tourists from abroad, foot traffic reached as much as 100,000 people on normal days — with tourists accounting for 70 percent of visitors, while local Parisians favored other parts of the French capital, like the Marais district.
Proposals presented by the Comité Champs-Élysées in 2019 centered around adding vegetation, widening zones for foot traffic and doing away with the curb, repaving the street and sidewalk in a uniform manner — inspired by Exhibition Road in London.
Reducing traffic lanes to two in each direction instead of four would add considerable room to install extra rows of vegetation, reducing the broad space used for military parades, the lobby groups noted.
The avenue’s paving stones are noisy to drive over, explained Philippe Chiambaretta, an architect from the firm PCA-Stream, who led the lobby group’s study, which involved experts drawn from the subjects of real estate, traffic and urban planning.