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Will Paris’s mega leisure complex ever happen?

It would be Europe's most state-of-the-art leisure complex for 30 million annual visitors but will it ever seethe light of day?

Will Paris's mega leisure complex ever happen?
All photos: Europacity Flickr

EuropaCity would be Europe’s most state-of-the-art shopping centre, located just 15km to the north of Paris. But its future is in question as public debate on whether it will go ahead starts on Tuesday.

The 80-hectare site would incorporate a shopping mall, hotel rooms, nightclubs and bars and would also serve educational purpose, with exhibition spaces and a conference centre.

But it would be bigger and better than existing leisure complexes in the area, also boasting an ice rink, circus, indoor ski slope, a 17-acre urban farm, a 150,000 metre squared theme park and an aquatic centre.

But so far it remains just a project, despite being on the drawing board for a decade. It is now being compared to other ambitious and controversial projects that have never seen the light of day, like the Notre Dame des Landes airport in Western France.

Developers and locals are however keen for it to go ahead.


The park would offer a panoramic view of Paris.

The Auchan group, which is behind the development, predict an influx of some 30 million tourists to the complex each year, including 6 million foreign visitors.


What a circus show at the complex might look like.

The total cost of the project is estimated at €3.1 billion, which would represent the biggest private investment project in France since Disneyland came to Paris in 1992. 

Developers justify the expense with the fact that EuropaCity would create 4,500 jobs for the construction, in addition to 12,000 fixed positions. They also say it will be entirely energy self-sufficient through the use of solar panels and geothermal power.

Six million foreign tourists are expected at the park each year.

It is planned for the 'Gonesse Triangle', a new business and commercial district not far from Charles de Gaulle airport in the north of Paris.

The complex will include a huge outdoor park and theme park.

The public debates will involve consultation with locals between March 15th and June 30th. Residents will get the opportunity to suggest their own ideas for the complex in a series of fifteen meetings before the final decision is made.

“We wil listen and these debates will help us develop the project, but our commitment to making sure it goes ahead it total,” said CHristophe Dalpstein,the director of EuropaCity.  

Several exhibition spaces are planned.

Opponents of the idea argue that Paris has enough shopping malls and those in charge of neighbouring towns fear it will simply suck the life and jobs out their own areas.

Eco-activists argue that it would be disastrous for the local agricultural industry as well as smaller local businesses. Militant environmental activists known as Zadists are already eyeing up the site as their next battle.

However, a survey by Odoxa carried out in December showed that 80 percent of locals were in favour.


The indoor ski slope.


A theme park to rival Disneyland Paris.

If given the go-ahead, work will begin in 2017 and the complex will open in 2020. But that's a big “if”. 


What the complex would look like at night.

SEE ALSO: The most controversial building projects in France


All photos: EuropaCity Flickr

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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