How the Champs-Élysées is changing with the times

In recent years it’s become a heavily-used thoroughfare and disconnected from daily Parisian life. That’s something that a plan to breathe new life into the fabled avenue hopes to reverse.

14 settembre 2018

One of the highest-profile streets in the world, the Champs-Élysées plays host to millions of visitors each year – not mention some of the most popular events in France.

In recent years, however, it’s become a heavily-used thoroughfare and disconnected from daily Parisian life. That’s something that a plan to breathe new life into the fabled avenue hopes to reverse.

Next year, sportswear behemoth Nike will be one of those leading the way when it opens a grand concept store in the heart of the Champs-Élysées. Mixing retail space, offices and rooftop areas, the new building is all about experiential shopping and could even feature in major sporting events.

For Walid Goudiard, director, Project and Development Services at JLL France, the new Nike store represents a big step towards the Champs-Élysées of tomorrow.

“Certain brands have a clear vision,” he explains. “They want not only to bring a new retail experience to consumers but they’re also willing to take part in the ongoing conversation about the Champs-Élysées’ future.”

Rethinking the Champs-Élysées

Plans to reinvigorate the Champs-Élysées are far from being a recent development. For many years, numerous parties such as the mayor of Paris, the committee of the Champs-Élysées, retailers and building landlords have been discussing how to modernize the street and re-establish its connection to the rest of the city.

“It’s one thing to be on the Champs-Élysées itself but once you get to the place de l’Etoile or the roundabout at the other end, there’s no continuity,” says Goudiard.

In order to make the avenue itself and the streets that connect to it more user-friendly for all, there are several ideas in play. Given that the Champs-Élysées currently has some of the highest levels of traffic in Paris, the mayor of Paris is looking into giving more space to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.

“There are always people who think that if the Champs- Élysées is pedestrianized, traffic jams will only get worse,” Goudiard says. “They have a point but we also have to consider the long-term future of the city and to do so this, people need to be thinking more widely about what needs to be done, not just what it means for them.”

The business experience

The Champs–Élysées is also a place for business, and any redevelopment needs to take into account the retail, hotel and restaurant scenes.

“Today, the avenue still has a patchwork feel with businesses on one side and terraces on the other,” says Goudiard. “The challenge is to think of the Champs-Élysées as a whole. To do that, we need to think about the customer experience; whether they’re going shopping, heading to the cinema, working or going for a drink, everyone should have an enjoyable experience.”

Yet it’s not just about what’s happening at ground level, which has previously been the focus of businesses. Nowadays refurbishments projects are looking at the buildings as a whole – including the rooftops as in the case of Nike.

Securing future investment

Ambitious revitalization projects are always long-term operations that require collaboration, a clear vision and significant investment – and Champs-Élysées is no exception.

“It needs to have brands like Nike or Les Galeries Lafayette that are prepared to invest time and money in their own projects,” says Goudiard. “But equally there needs to be investors, in this case like Groupama Immobilier or 52 Capital that are capable of putting in significant sums of money and being prepared to wait several years to see the return on their investments.”

Equally, institutional investors such as French insurers and foreign sovereign wealth funds along with listed companies also have a role to play in funding.

“It’s interesting to see very different investor profiles,” notes Goudiard. “And a variety of investors bring a wide range of knowledge with them to be able to carry out innovative projects.”

In the meantime individual refurbishments such as the McDonalds revamp by French designer Patrick Norguet and the overhaul of legendary Champs-Élysées brasserie Le Drugstore by Tom Dixon are leading the way. Others such as the Grand Palais, which is set for a €500 million facelift in 2020, will further emphasise how France’s most famous avenue is looking to the future.

As Goudiard concludes: “Between 2020 and 2025, the look and feel of the Champs-Élysées will have completely changed.”