Letter from Paris: post-pandemic La Défense is in a mid-life crisis – The Property Chronicle
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Letter from Paris: post-pandemic La Défense is in a mid-life crisis

The Fund Manager

In June 2020, after 80 days of complete ‘confinement’, I wrote a piece about the “Coronavirus Time Machine”. Inspired by too much lockdown Netflix, the imaginary construct was that the unique pandemic moment could either rewind or fast forward time, throwing out winners and losers at an uncomfortable velocity and accelerating trends which would otherwise have taken a generation to move.

18 months later, as we are now finally stepping out of that imaginary Time Machine journey, those winners and losers are becoming clearer in the real world. The Paris business district of La Défense has certainly not proved a property winner. Even pre-pandemic, La Défense was already showing its age – especially when measured against a peer group of similar large-scale business districts in New York, London, Singapore and Tokyo. Post-pandemic, it feels like this once-visionary district is rooted in the past and experiencing a mid-life crisis, (defined by Wikipedia as “a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle-aged individuals”)

Conceived in the 1960’s, Paris’ vertical island of concrete, steel and glass was shaped in Pompidou’s ultra-modernist age when “the city must adapt to the car and not the reverse”. 60 years on, the high-density district is missing a sense of wellbeing created by dedicated cycle lanes or walking along a leafy waterfront. Each day, over 250,000 people go there but 180,000 of them are office workers who go home at night. Increasingly, they can also choose to go home to work.

The Fund Manager

About Andy Watson

Andy Watson

Andy Watson is a Partner at Europa Capital, based in Paris. He is also the author of A Thousand Days in Berlin – Tales of Property Pioneering (2017).

Articles by Andy Watson

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