Urbanism at the service of citizens. Interview with Marik Fetouh, Deputy Mayor of Bordeaux

Marik Fetouh

  1. What does the urban regeneration of Bordeaux consist of? What are the objectives and priorities of this transformation?

When Alain Juppé, then Prime Minister, arrived in Bordeaux in 1995, he stated his intention to awaken “the sleeping beauty”, as Bordeaux was popularly referred to at that time. To make it more attractive, he reconfigured the city, focusing above all on restoring the historic centre, which led to it becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Today, with one million visitors, 10,000 new inhabitants, and 11,000 new jobs created in the city each year, Bordeaux has become one of the most appealing cities in France.

Reuniting Bordeaux’s residents with their river

For many years the docks were non-operational, business in the port was scarce, and it moved further down-river to Verdon. The warehouses were abandoned. Some have been demolished and replaced by gardens, others have been converted into exhibition venues or establishments, making the docks a pleasant and relaxing place for a stroll today. Both the river and cruise tourism industries have been intensively developed.

Regenerating the poorest neighbourhoods

In addition to developing the Right Bank, the arrival of the Bordeaux tramway meant that some of the most challenging districts in the city also benefited from the urban development schemes. The flagship project is the Euroatlantique development in the area around the main train station, which has garnered international interest.

Fighting urban congestion and solving the housing problem

During the last 20 years, the city’s planning policies have tried to address these two problems by increasing and concentrating available housing. Each year, a total of 9,000 homes are made available in the Bordeaux metropolis. In the coming months, Bordeaux’s ambitious housing programme will provide 14,000 more homes, 30% of which are earmarked for social housing.

A green city

To create a more pedestrian-friendly city Bordeaux’s open spaces were largely left in their natural state during the regeneration. But, for example, the urbanised landscape and lack of vegetation in some of those areas does nothing but quell the oppressive heat on the hottest days. To solve this problem, the new Mayor of Bordeaux, Nicolas Florianhas decided to plant 3,000 trees in the city every year.

  1. What role have Bordeaux’s citizens played in the project to transform the city?

The people’s voice has, for some time, influenced the development of public spaces. It makes itself heard through advisory bodies like neighbourhood associations, as well as through the obligatory public consultations. In Bordeaux today, it is the inhabitants that inspire the development of the public spaces. Their needs play an integral role in the planning of the different projects for those areas.

This year, the Bordeaux city council has launched its first participatory budget. More than 13.000 of Bordeaux’s citizens voted in favour of the sustainable development projects they hope to see implemented in their neighbourhood. Of the 407 projects submitted, 41 were selected. An anticipated 2.5 million Euro will be invested into those 41 projects. They will be carried out over the next two years.

  1. Do you think that the regeneration of the city has improved the security and the perception of security for its citizens?

 Bordeaux is considered to be one of the least dangerous cities in France. In fact, it’s ranked 9th out of the 11 police districts with more than 200,000 residents, with 72 crimes for every 1,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, the crime rate has been steadily decreasing for the last 15 years. On the other hand, the council is concerned about the “outbreak of anti-social behaviour” in some neighbourhoods, particularly in relation to drug trafficking.

 To reassure pedestrians, the council has provided more lighting in populated areas and streets at night (squares, platforms, alleys …). In addition, the city has cameras installed on street corners, rooftops, and other strategic locations. There are a total of 105 cameras throughout the city.

Lastly, the particularly low crime rate can also be attributed to urban planning, which used the tramway to connect the more problematic neighbourhoods to the city centre in less than 15 minutes, giving their residents a genuine sense of being part of the city.

  1. How can urban planning improve coexistence and integration between different groups?

 Connecting the Right Bank with the Left Bank, via the tramway and the different bridges, has opened up the historic centre of the city to a group of residents who were previously peripheral to it. At the same time, the city has taken a more dynamic and homogeneous approach to creating new places to live.

For the last 10 years, the National Urban Regeneration Programme has been rallying the public and private sectors, elected officials, government services, social bodies, HLM (rent-controlled housing) bodies, and residents to renew more than 500 French neighbourhoods with particularly poor living conditions. These include two districts on Bordeaux’s Right Bank: La Benauge, and to the north of the city, Les Aubiers.

Additionally, three French architectural firms have received the Mies van der Rohe European Union award for the transformation of 530 units of social housing in the Grand Parc district of Bordeaux. To prevent the demolition of several housing blocks, the architectural firms Lacaton and Vassall, Frédéric Druot, and Christophe Hutin joined forces to renovate them. By renovating, all the flats gained in both surface area and natural light. Demolishing is four times more expensive than renovating.


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