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Trees, parks, and a stream: How Paris City Hall plans to redevelop Notre-Dame area

As work continues to restore Paris' Notre-Dame cathedral after the devastating fire of 2019, City Hall has released plans to redesign the area around the cathedral adding trees, a stream and an underground visitor centre.

Trees, parks, and a stream: How Paris City Hall plans to redevelop Notre-Dame area
An artist's rendering of plans to redesign the area around Notre-Dame (PHOTO RIGHTS: Studio Alma pour le Groupement BBS)

Three years after the fire that nearly destroyed France’s 850-year old landmark – while the cathedral itself is still closed for repairs – the Mayor of Paris has unveiled plans to redesign the surrounding landscape.

The plans show trees and vegetation surrounding the square in front of the cathedral, where, in hot weather, a small stream will flow through to cool the square.

The group envisages a large 400-metre park along the banks of the Seine, while the space behind the cathedral will also be transformed with extra vegetation.

An artist’s rendering of the area behind the Cathedral (Photo Credit: Studio Alma pour le Groupement BBS)

The reception area will also be redesigned. In the future, groups, individual visitors and tourists wishing to access the towers will queue at different locations.

Under the monument, the underground parking lot will transform into a visitor centre, offering an interior walkway that will give access to the archaeological crypt and will open up onto the Seine.

The image can be seen below:

(Photo Credit: Studio Alma pour le Groupement BBS)

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the goal was to “magnify” the building, and that there was a “pressing need” to do so after the fire. For the mayor who is known for her efforts to increase green space in Paris, increasing the vegetation around the monument was also a top priority.

“Urban planning and development must now respond to the climate crisis,” said Hidalgo. In total, 131 new trees will be planted.

At a cost of €50 million, the project will be entirely financed by the City of Paris, and it will be headed by the landscape design firm Bas Mets. The group came in first place out of a group of four finalists in a competition that began in the spring of 2021 to determine the best landscape architect for the job.

Work is already ongoing to restore the cathedral itself after the fire, and that is due to be finished in 2024, in time for the Olympics. Once the Olympics and Paralympics are over, work will start on the area around the Cathedral, which is set to be finished by 2027.

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PARIS

‘Drunks, drug-dealers and pickpockets’ – French police crackdown at Paris Gare du Nord

Police in the capital are planning a massive operation to clean up Paris' chaotic and grotty Gare du Nord station - described by the local police commander as "full of drunks, crack dealers and pickpockets".

'Drunks, drug-dealers and pickpockets' - French police crackdown at Paris Gare du Nord

Gare du Nord serves not only as one of the major rail hubs for the capital, but also the arrival point for the Eurostar and shuttles from Paris’ two main airports – meaning that it is often the first part of the city that tourists see.

And it doesn’t give a good impression – the station is dark, confusingly laid out and its infrastructure is crumbling, so it’s far from uncommon to see buckets placed to catch water from the leaking rook.

But it’s the security aspect that worries the police – as the station has also become a hotspot for pickpockets, unlicensed taxi drivers, illegal street vendors and drug dealers, as well as a hangout for homeless people, many of whom have mental health problems.

Although the biggest security problem is undoubtedly pickpocketing – especially of confused, newly arrived tourists – there are occasionally more serious incidents, such as the attack on January 11th when a man randomly assaulted seven members of the public with a sharpened chisel.

A year previously, another knife-wielding man, later revealed to be homeless and with mental health problems who frequented the station, was shot by police.

Police presence in the station has now been massively stepped up, with dozens of officers patrolling at all hours of the day and night, in addition to the soldiers from Operation Sentinelle who make regular patrols of Gare du Nord (and other sites that have the potential to be terror attack targets).

The commander of the unit based at Gare du Nord told Le Parisien: “Unlicensed cigarette sellers, crack cocaine dealers, pickpocketing, drunk people – these are all problems that characterise Gare du Nord.

However, she added that things have improved in recent years, saying: “There is no longer a war between rival gangs, who used to come here regularly to fight in front of the [now-defunct] Foot Locker store. Many new stores have moved in. The light is soothing. It’s not an anxiety-provoking place at all.”

The station – through which 700,000 people pass every day – has long been a sore point for city authorities, who are well aware of the poor impression it gives to new arrivals.

However in 2021, an ambitious plan to completely redevelop it and add a huge new shopping mall was rejected. Instead, it was decided to simply give the existing station a revamp in time for the 2024 Olympics. 

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