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Just for tourists? Paris aims to draw locals back to Champs-Élysées

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Often called “the world's most beautiful avenue”, the Champs-Élysées in Paris draws millions of visitors to its celebrated tree-lined pavements each year. But with most Parisians shunning the area, residents of the French capital have been invited to pitch in on an ambitious “re-enchantment” plan aimed at luring them back.

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Its been the subject of countless songs, films and paintings, and many still think of the 2.4-kilometre-long promenade leading up to the Arc de Triomphe as the ultimate destination for a romantic stroll. Yet, a recent study ordered by the Champs-Élysées committee showed that a mere 5% of the avenue's 100,000 daily visitors are actually Parisians.

“Its a fact: Parisians no longer frequent the most famous avenue in the world, even though its part of the capitals identity. The promenade has become a polluted and noisy traffic jam,” the committee said in a statement. Acting on behalf of some of the avenues biggest businesses and stakeholders – from Louis Vuitton to the Fouquets restaurant – it is now calling on Parisians to have a say on how they wish to revitalise, and thereby reclaim, “les Champs” by the year 2030.

The online consultation opened to the public last week, just as Parisian architectural firm PCA-STREAM inaugurated a three-month-long exhibition to showcase its own, €1 million committee-commissioned, plan on how to make the avenue Parisian again.

In an effort to drastically reduce noise and pollution, the agency plans to halve the number of car lanes, add 1,132 new trees, and pedestrianise adjacent areas, including large parts of the sprawling Place de la Concorde, at the base of the avenue.

Although the plan was first unveiled last year, it was yet to be given such publicity.

Committee President Jean-Noël Reinhardt said he was “delighted” by the project, and that both the study and PCA-STREAMs proposal underscored “the inevitable need to re-enchant les Champs”.

Like an airport duty-free shop, without the duty-free

While traffic and pollution is certainly an issue, many Parisians whom FRANCE 24 spoke to said the main reason they shunned the famed avenue were the steep prices encountered in the up-scale neighbourhood. One recounted having to pay €45 for a single cocktail, four times the amount charged in most parts of the city.

An overview of PCA-STREAMs plan for Place de la Concorde, at the bottom end of the Champs-Elysées. © PCA-STREAM

Though born and raised near the promenade, thirty-seven-year-old Raphaëlle Lassoued said she hadnt set foot there in years. “I think it was for a Christmas market,” she said of the last time she ventured to the Champs-Elysées, which she likened to a “tourist trap”.

“With its fancy stores and expensive restaurants its not very accessible for ordinary Parisians," she explained. "And at night, its a place that can get fairly dangerous because of the risk of getting mugged – because of the rich tourists who go there. Its a little bit like Hollywood Boulevard in that way.”

Hervé, another native Parisian, agreed, saying he could count the number of times hed been to the Champs-Elysées for a leisurely stroll "on the fingers of one hand".

“Even though I grew up not far away, I cant remember my parents ever taking me for a walk there, and I cant remember the last time I went,” said the 50-year-old, before adding: “Its like an airport duty-free shop, but without the duty-free.”

Not the Paris I know

Hervé said the few times he feels that the avenue really belongs to Parisians is when locals go there to celebrate national achievements, like the recent FIFA World Cup win, or when it becomes the sceRead More – Source