How participative metropolitan planning can really work

"Let's reinvent the Grand Paris Metropolis" call for projects brings together local stakeholders to design their metropolitan area.

Labelisation date : 02/06/2017

  • Grand Paris Métropolis , France

  • Size of city : 6 999 097 inhabitants

  • Contact

    Séverine ROMME

    Delegate for Cooperation and Innovation


In 2016, the Grand Paris Metropolis (FR), in partnership with the government and the public body responsible for building the new automatic Metro, launched the “Let's reinvent the Grand Paris Metropolis” challenge for its municipalities and for the private sector (companies, designers, promoters, investors). 
The challenge included two phases. First, mayors proposed public land and sites in need of transformation. Following visits to these sites and consultations with locals, private sector companies submitted innovative projects for the sites’ economic, social and environmental transformation. 
In March 2017, 164 projects out of 420 were successful, focusing on 57 sites, 27 of which are around future Metro stations. These projects are made up of more than 326 innovative startups, associations and SMEs. In total, 6.4 billion euros will be injected by the companies acquiring the sites in the coming years.

The solutions offered by the good practice

The implemented solutions have brought together elected representatives and professionals. The sites were proposed by the relevant mayor or territorial president, who presented them to the President of the Grand Paris Metropolis. Where appropriate, the site developer was included in a letter of intent addressed to the Grand Paris president. An advisory elected representative–technician pair has been appointed and a fact sheet has been drawn up with: • Information on the site location; • Its surface area; • Guidelines on the provisional programme and the developer; • Whether they have already been selected; • The type of innovation expected (intermodality, energy efficiency, urban services, digital technology, construction, culture, etc.); • The town planning restrictions. The devised solutions also aimed to cater to new city dweller habits, with shared services proposed in half of the successful projects (co-living, co-working, etc.). The decision to launch a call for projects has revamped the city's production methods by creating public/private partnerships, as the projects are led by professionals who assume the risks in return for land development potential. Given the scale of the experiment, the territorial impact can be measured, as it is led at metropolitan level. Finally, as all metropolitan territories were free to participate in the call for projects, the small towns with limited resources were able to optimise land in the same way as the larger towns.

Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

The Let's reinvent the Grand Paris Metropolis call for projects illustrates both the process and the purposes – reinventing the city differently – of the integrated sustainable urban development drive. And while the organisers have given the team substantial freedom in terms of the programming, the economic and social model for their project and the urban or architectural styles, they have nonetheless set out a number of URBACT principles, including: • Involving the projects in the search for an innovative, sustainable, united and intelligent metropolis with a view to sustainable urban development; • Devising projects within an integrated strategy in order to: - boost economic vitality and job opportunities in the metropolis; - respond to residents’ housing and service needs; - set an example in terms of energy and the environment; - contribute to the artistic, cultural and social reach of the metropolis; - suggest new concepts, new locations, new uses and new services with a focus on functional diversity and reversibility; - suggest models to ensure efficiency in the projects and the residents' association. To ensure the integrated approach of the projects, they must be led by groups offering a range of skills, with designers, promoters, developers, investors, companies and even citizen communities or associations, in a bottom-up approach.

Based on a participatory approach

As France’s largest metropolis, with a population of seven million inhabitants and an entrepreneurial pull, the Grand Paris Metropolis wanted this call for projects to be an example of co-constructing the metropolitan project. To ensure extensive professional participation in the call for projects, the organisational committee – co-chaired by the Grand Paris Metropolis President and the Regional Prefect for Ile-de-France, responsible for the political management of the process – organised the call-up as early as possible in the process. In October 2016, an event was organised for all potential company candidates in order to present the 59 sites chosen by the organisational committee and invite them to respond to the consultation. Site visits were organised in October and November 2016 alongside national and international communications campaigns. The consulting website went online during the property show in December 2016, coinciding with the start of the official application submission process. A large-scale citizen debate took place in conjunction with the call for projects in order to bring residents together and make this good practice a founding act for the metropolis and a badge of its identity. The winners were chosen by a panel for each site chaired by the President, who had the option to delegate this responsibility to the mayor of the town or territory in question in order to ensure control of the site’s future.

What difference has it made?

In terms of impact on the Metropolis (the Grand Paris Metropolis was created in January 2016, see the video), the “Let's reinvent the Metropolis” call for projects has raised its profile and substantially increased its attractiveness among investors, thus enhancing the diversity and quality of projects. In terms of results, 164 company groups were selected from 420 candidates to acquire the 57 sites involved in the call for projects. The innovation goal was well reached as the groups of property and development professionals (architects, promoters and investors) place huge emphasis on urban innovation companies and a strong local presence, with more than 326 innovative start-ups, associations and SMEs. If we consider the method, the 420 applications received proposed exceptional innovative ideas with a view to transforming the Metropolis into a real “sustainable and smart city laboratory”. The “Let's reinvent the Grand Paris Metropolis” consultation has thus established itself as the urban innovation pioneer and Europe's largest smart city consultation process. In terms of governance, the call for projects method, bringing mayors and territorial presidents into contact with teams of professionals to work on the projects, has helped create synergies between towns and territories.

Why should other European cities use it?

This good practice may be of interest to other cities as they are all faced with the two-pronged challenge of finding solutions for land development and attracting investors. The success of phase one of “Let's reinvent the Grand Paris Metropolis” is fully in line with the very substance of this consultation: innovation, in all its guises. For the most part, the 420 applications that were received captured this quality, transforming this consultation into a call for projects targeting environmental excellence. Of the key topics, the issue of mobility to simplify metropolitan connections is also relevant to other European cities, with connected mobility, soft mobility and smart parking. A logistics review is another area for consideration, proposed at metropolitan level. The methods of dialogue with residents are also central to this good practice, which aims to integrate them from the very early project planning stages. Indeed, the relevance of the projects is reliant on continual input from the user. An experience exchange with other European counties would only boost the process. Furthermore, involving local elected representatives in the choice of sites and teams strengthens governance at various metropolitan and local levels. The Metropolis does not impose its projects on the communities. Instead, it instigates the process and promotes territories and know-how. The call for projects attracted young agencies, big names in architecture and start-ups.