Sarkozy unveils "Greater Paris" of the future

Wed Apr 29, 2009 1:14pm EDT
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By James Mackenzie

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled a 10-year, 35-billion euro ($46.2 billion) project on Wednesday to transform Paris into a green metropolis.

At the heart of the plan is a 130-kilometre automatic metro line looping around the city, linking a series of new economic and technology centers and more flexible planning laws that would allow as many as 70,000 new housing units a year.

The "Greater Paris" project has been billed as one of the biggest redevelopments of the French capital since the 19th century planning chief Baron Haussmann reshaped the center into today's city of broad boulevards.

"What I'm proposing is certainly ambitious and difficult," Sarkozy said in a speech. "It's about preparing for the future."

Sarkozy said the economic crisis was no reason to delay a project that he said would take a decade to complete. He said work should begin by 2012, the year in which his current presidential mandate ends.

"I think the answer to the crisis is great projects. France will only emerge from it if we have great projects," he said.

Sarkozy's call for a bold renewal of the capital is in the tradition of past presidents such as Georges Pompidou or Francois Mitterrand who left their mark with buildings such as the Pompidou Center or the Louvre's now-famous glass pyramid.

The "Greater Paris" project, based around proposals from 10 French and international design teams, is intended to bind the city and its surrounding region with an energy-efficient transport and building infrastructure.   Continued...

<p>The Eiffel tower is seen behind roofs from the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris in this recent photo from April 10, 2009. REUTERS/Charles Platiau</p>