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Paris mayor pushes ahead with plan to give Champs-Élysées a $305 million green makeover

Paris — Mayor Anne Hidalgo has confirmed that ambitious plans to transform Paris' Champs-Élysées, the iconic avenue in the heart of the French capital, are still on the table. Her initiative will see the avenue with fewer car lanes, more room for pedestrians and much more greenery.

Often dubbed "the most beautiful avenue in the world," the Champs-Élysées has gone three decades without a major overhaul, and many Parisians believe it looks tired and a lot less sophisticated than it used to.

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An artist's impression of the redesigned Arc de Triomphe, at the end of Paris' iconic  Champs-Élysées avenue, prepared by architects PCA-Stream under commission by the Paris mayor's office. PCA-Stream

Once home to swish car showrooms and top fashion houses, the avenue is now lined with expensive cafes, big chain stores and a lot of fast food restaurants. Locals complain about noise and pollution from the relentless traffic, as the eight-lane, 1.2 mile avenue remains a major artery through the city. Even the gardens at the end, near the Place de la Concorde, look underused and uninviting.

The Champs-Élysées Committee of local business leaders has been pushing for a revamp for several years. In 2018, the Committee tasked architects PCA-Stream with coming up with plans for the avenue and the surrounding areas, including the Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde, at each end. Hidalgo agreed to include the plans in her re-election manifesto last year.

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The redesigned Champs-Élysées extends (top right) from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, as envisioned by architects at PCA-Stream. PCA-Stream

She confirmed that a facelift for the avenue was still very much in her planning for the coming years in a wide-ranging interview with French newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche, on Sunday. The Committee responded quickly, welcoming the news.

In a statement, the committee noted that the avenue had "lost its splendor over the past 30 years… It has been progressively abandoned by Parisians and has suffered several crises: the yellow vest [demonstrations], strikes, the pandemic, economic crisis etc."

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The budget for the total project is a whopping $305 million, but the dramatic change won't happen right away. Hidalgo said the revamp of the Place de la Concorde will go ahead in the next few years, but the Champs-Élysées makeover will have to wait until 2025.

That's partly because Paris first must complete the ambitious program already underway to ready the city to host the 2024 Olympic Games.

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An artist's impression from architects PCA-Stream shows the plan to remake Paris' central Champs-Élysées avenue as a pedestrian friendly green space, with far less traffic than the current eight-lane layout. PCA-Stream

While those plans will be scaled back because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the city is already renovating, rebuilding and restructuring not just its sports facilities, but also its roads and transport systems, and its links with the near suburbs of La Défense to the west, and Saint-Denis to the north, which is to be headquarters for all administrative operations for the Games.

"We will redo the Place de la Concorde before the Olympic Games, then the full length of the avenue afterwards; it will be [another] extraordinary garden," Hidalgo told the newspaper over the weekend.

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