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Green light for makeover of iconic Paris building

French authorities gave the go-ahead Friday to renovate the iconic former Parisian department store La Samaritaine on the River Seine, ending years of legal wrangling over the historic site.

Green light for makeover of iconic Paris building
Parisian department store La Samaritaine. Photo: AFP
Perched on the right bank of the Seine, the hulking store occupies some of the most expensive real estate in Paris but was shut down in 2005 when it ran afoul of health and safety regulations.
  
Efforts to redevelop the site have hit several snags, notably over plans by Japanese architecture firm Sanaa to build a massive undulating glass facade over a part of the building, which is now owned by luxury brands company LVMH.
   
But on Friday the State Council, France's highest legal body, gave a green light to the renovation project, saying it “did not break” local planning regulations.
   
LVMH — which owns brands such as Louis Vuitton — plans to turn the complex, including the main building and three adjacent properties, into a five-star hotel, offices, shops and flats at a cost of some 460 million euros ($520 million).
   
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo welcomed the decision, saying it would create 4,400 jobs.
   
“By 2018, all Parisians and visitors will be able to visit this new exceptional site, which will contain shops, a hotel, low-cost housing, a creche and offices,” said Hidalgo in a statement.
   
Critics complained the design would be an eyesore, ruining the glorious banks of the River Seine, and heritage groups filed a complaint over the design plans.
   
In May 2014 a court cancelled one of the renovation permits, saying the glass wall “clashed” with the look of the other buildings in the area.
   
The administrative appeals court then upheld the cancellation of the permit, saying the new building “did not comply with the obligation to fit the planned construction into its urban surroundings.”
 

(Photo: AFP)
 
– Novelties shop –
 
La Samaritaine, a Paris landmark, had its golden age during the 1930s at the height of the Art Deco era but went into decline for the last 30 years of its existence.
   
It had its start in 1870, when Ernest Cognacq, a hawker from the west coast of France, opened a small “novelties” shop on the banks of the Seine.
   
He called it La Samaritaine (the Samaritan woman) after a pump on the nearby Pont Neuf whose facade depicted Christ and the woman of Samaria at Jacob's Well, as recounted in the Bible.
   
He would later buy up adjoining buildings until the store covered 70,000 square metres (750,000 square feet).
   
However the business piled up losses and in 2001 was bought by LVMH, owned by France's richest man Bernard Arnault.
   
He was forced to shut it down after a police report said the whole art deco structure needed to be urgently renovated to replace antiquated electrical circuits, malfunctioning smoke extraction systems and flammable wooden flooring.
   
The renovated Samaritaine was supposed to have opened in 2013 but this has been pushed back several times.
   
Renovation work will now be able to be continued, as the decisions of the State Council may not be appealed.
   
LVMH said it was “satisfied” by the ruling in its favour.
   
“Samaritaine will now be able to restart this ambitious project to rehabilitate and renovate the whole site,” the firm said in a statement.

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SHOPPING

France’s favourite supermarket revealed

With their wide range of fresh fruit and veg and extensive cheese and charcuterie selections, French supermarkets are popular with visitors - but which chain do the French themselves prefer?

France's favourite supermarket revealed
Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP.

E. Leclerc is the nation’s favourite supermarket, according to the study conducted by OpinionWay for Bonial, published on Tuesday.

Of around 5,000 people surveyed, 23 percent listed Leclerc as the place where they do the majority of their shopping. Carrefour came second, favoured by 21 percent of people, followed by Intermarché (12 percent).

German discount retailer Lidl came in fourth with 9 percent, although 45 percent of French people had done some of their shopping in Lidl over the past year.

READ ALSO Readers’ tips: Which supermarket in France is the best to shop at?

Grand Frais, the supermarket which many of our readers recommended in 2018, is where only 1 percent of people in France do most of their shopping.

Organic stores may be gaining in popularity in France, but the results of the survey show that they are a long way from becoming mass-market. The most popular was Bicoop, which 9 percent of people said they had visited over a twelve-month period, followed by Naturalia and Bio c’ Bon (3 percent each).

When it comes to food shopping, there are also significant regional variations. The map below shows the leading supermarket in each of France’s 13 metropolitan regions.

Graphic: Bonial.

While Leclerc and Carrefour dominate 11 of the 13 regions between them, Système U is over-represented in the Pays de la Loire, where 34 percent of people do most of their shopping in the chain, compared to only 8 percent at a national level.

Leclerc meanwhile is the preferred chain of just 13 percent of people in the Paris region, where many people use smaller city centre stores rather than the large hyper-marchés.

Respondents also ranked Leclerc first for its range of products and special offers, while Lidl came out on top when it comes to price.

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