PARIS – The sidewalks are cracked along "la plus belle avenue du monde" – the most beautiful street in the world. Every day, 60,000 cars close the paths. Walkways are cluttered with abandoned scooters.
Avenue des Champs-Élysées was built for royalty and named after paradise. But the last major renovation was more than 20 years ago. New dealers have been intermittent. The Parisians avoid the area with the dissolution of New York's governance ready from Times Square.
As Paris is preparing for the 2024 Olympics, hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into construction projects in the avenue, one of the most visited areas of the city, as it seeks to restore and redefine its place.
"We want to prevent the image of the Champs-Élysées from falling," said Jean-Noël Reinhardt, the president of the Comité Champs-Élysées, a community group.
The project is a complicated task. Commercial promenade rentals are among the highest in the world, at $ 1,519 per square meter per year, compared to $ 2,250 on Fifth Avenue, according to Cushman & Wakefield. The construction of the Beaux-Arts buildings that govern the street is heavily regulated, and any changes made to accommodate tourists and global chains may risk alienating the locals.
Without refurbishment, the Champs-Élysées risks losing their prestige as a world-class destination, said Jean-Louis Missika, deputy director of Paris for urban planning and economic development.
The Champs-Élysées are among the major boulevards such as Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and Oxford Street in London. Other streets, such as Des Voeux Road in Hong Kong and Khao San Road in Bangkok, are trying to position themselves as major attractions.
Avenue, which stretches nearly 1.2 miles from Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, has inspired the streets of the Bronx, New Orleans, Prague and, recently, Tokyo. Joe Dassin sang in 1969, over the perky piano chords, that the Champs-Elysees had "everything you want."
Named after the Elysian fields in Greek mythology, the street became operational in the 17th century for the French royal family. Napoleon III la fountains and paths in the 19th century. Later in the 19th century, a regional urban design led by Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann traveled the uniform stone buildings that still populate many Parisian streets.
Parisians celebrated their city's liberation from the Nazis in 1944 and their nation's world Cup win there. A restoration in the 1990s extended the pavements, added trees and moved underground parking. But the glamorous charm that made the Champs-Élysées a quintessentially Parisian street has slowed down.
The theaters that dot the avenue throw millions of movie guests. Shopping arcades set further back from the street are often deserted. The Triumphal Arch, a testament to military power that has become a monumental symbol of extreme prosperity and global consumerism in its shadow, was recently vandalized by so-called yellow West protesters who protested against high taxes and income disparities.
In 2007, the city government, wishing to resist the "banalization" of the strip, tried to block H & M from opening an outlet on the avenue. However, the fast fashion chain arrived, along with two Zara shops and an Abercrombie & Fitch located in a sumptuous mansion behind a gilded street.
"Having always the same marks, it is not good for the place, because people do not know where they are," Mr. Missika said. "They could be in London or Tokyo."
Ideally, he said the Champs-Élysées would host a balanced mix of fast food outlets, seated restaurants, global retailers and local designers, but the city has few legal tools to shape the commercial composition of the street.
"There must be a good balance of commercial activity, "said Missika." When a place is completely deserted by the locals, it is a major problem; The city's soul disappears. "
The Champs-Élysées are repopulated by tenants hoping to draw both Parisians and tourists.
An extension of the Galeries Lafayette chain of 70,000 square meters will open between Rue La Boétie and Rue du Colisée at the end of March, and became the largest retail store on the street.
The almost 90-year-old property, a former bank, is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority. over buyers and the 180,000 who work around the Champs-Élysées.
Galeries Lafayette follows Apple, who opened a store in November on the corner of Rue Washington in a 19th-century building once home to the Brazilian aviation chief Alberto Santos Architects from Foster & Partners restored the original wooden and marble staircase and laid a sparkling, kaleidoscopic roof over an inner courtyard.
Building permits took months, partly because of the building's history. The property of 59,000 square meters was purchased in April for more than $ 650 million for Bayerische Versorgungskammer, a German pension fund.
Other businesses find their way to the street. In December, Norges Bank Eiendomsforvaltning in Norway bought almost 110,900 square meters of office and office space on the 79 Champs-Elysées. Thomas Jefferson once lived at the 92 Champs Elysees, where WeWork opened its outskirts of 48,000 square feet in June.
Pierre Hermé, known as "Picasso of pastries", merged with the beauty mark L & # 39; Occitane en Provence to open a 10,000 square foot lifestyle shop at the 86 Champs-Élysées in early 2018. New Dior and Nike stores are in the works.
Conventional retailers with their big characters and rushed customers "will eventually just disappear" from the Champs-Élysées, said Stefan Behling, leading architect on the Apple project. Instead, concept stores and adventure rooms will take over.
"That subtlety is the right thing," he said.
But even though the stores take up most of the Champs-Élysées, only 23 percent of visitors come to shop, according to data from the neighborhood committee.
Many are looking for culture and leisure, for reasons to disturb their sidewalks with a stop in a gallery or a lift ride up to a sweeping view. City rules relaxed in recent years will allow more development of the Champs-Élysées rooftops, with bars, restaurants and up to a dozen pools, including one planned for a SO Sofitel hotel.
Initiatives to expand green The space has already taken root. The Champs-Élysées are closed to cars one Sunday per month since 2016. One evening in July, an open-air cinema became available where the fantasy film "Les Visiteurs" played on a transverse screen near the Arc de triomphe. Helen Mirren and Jane Fonda sat in the middle of the street for a 2017 fashion show.
Last year, the city began building a dedicated cycling track on the Champs-Élysées, which it expects to complete by early 2020. A government effort – with the assistance of Chanel – to upgrade and expand the exhibition and events at the Grand Palais will start next year.
There is also talk of tracking the garden along the eastern part of the Champs-Élysées, where Jeff Koons tough 35-foot tall sculpture "Bouquet of Tulips" will be permanently placed this year. French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, backed by private funding, are reworking several fountains along the street.
"This is part of a global transformation of the city," Missika said.