Everyone says that change is positive and I tend to agree. However, you might remember my recent post expressing my disappointment rather emphatically about the transformations Paris will likely undergo in the coming months/years.
Then, this weekend I read that Sarkozy has given Russia permission to erect an orthodox cathedral next to the Eiffel Tower in what seems to me to be a way to strike a political and economic agreement with Russia than for religious reasons. So far, no design mock-ups of the cathedral have been published but I can foresee it being ostentatious.
In a more positive read, however, I read that plans to reconstruct the banks of the Seine river are moving forward and should begin to take shape during the summer of 2012. As it is now, the quay is open to motorists and is often very congested, only car-free for runners, strollers and bikers on Sundays and holidays. The project is therefore to create a veritable waterfront with activities, green spaces, cafés, restaurants, concert venues, mini islands with with lounge chairs and parasols, sports grounds, and paths reserved for pedestrians. It will transform the riverbank into a more convivial space for locals and tourists. Sounds good so far.
One of the things I love about Philadelphia (and other States in proximity to water) is the constant activity near the river - great restaurants, bars, concerts, and events. The only time of year when the banks of the Seine are open for any prolonged length of time is during Paris Plages between July and August when the riverside becomes car-free and tons (literally) of sand is trucked in to create a faux beach with lounge chairs, food vendors and activities for children. Many people criticize the concept as a waste of money and a poor excuse for a vacation for families that can't afford to leave the city. I happen to think it's a nice idea, crowds aside and weather permitting, that provides a pretty nice "staycation". If anything, just having the liberty to walk along the parts of the Seine normally reserved for cars is a nice change.
But traffic is an important problematic and seems to have been taken into serious consideration. What will happen to all the cars that pass along the Seine everyday? Rive gauche, the banks between the Musée d'Orsay and the Pont de l'Alma will be closed to traffic - that's 2 kilometers that will be reserved for pedestrians. As it is set up right now, the same cannot be done for Rive droite but changes will be made. Two flows of traffic will be maintained and 5 traffic lights will be installed between the Iéna and Sully bridges to force motorists to drive slower.
As with any transformation of this magnitude, the project doesn't come cheap. With an investment of 40 million euros and 2 million euros anticipated per year, the creation of a lively waterfront seems worth the money (unlike corrupting the skyline) and a positive change for the city. I'm very impatient to see the execution of the designs and hopefully they won't disappoint.
All photos courtesy of La Libération