PARIS – One of the city’s largest public squares is undergoing major renovations in an attempt to improve traffic and aesthetic quality. Place de la République, a meeting spot for parades as well as a busy transportation hub, is currently under the knife until 2013. City Hall is highlighting certain environmentally-friendly practices in an attempt to rebrand République as a “sustainable square.”
The square, dating back to the middle ages, evolved to its current state in the late 19th century. Located in the east of the city, République is a largely commercial area, mostly known as a transportation center linking five metro lines as well as buses, taxis and several Vélib public bike stations.
Its central green areas have become over-run with a seedier crowd over the years, and even some homeless camped out in tents. According to City Hall, car, bike, and pedestrian traffic are precarious while noise pollution is among the highest in the city. The renovations begun in late 2011 are already starting to shape up as new traffic patterns and repaving are laying the foundations for the project.
While addressing many needs around République, the renovations aim primarily to better traffic patterns while creating a more welcoming public space for events and daily life. The current square crisscrossed by traffic lanes with no defined lanes for bikes, will be revamped. Traffic will be limited to the periphery, circulating the newly pedestrianized plaza, with access limited to buses and taxis on the north end. The city hopes to create better accessibility for the three arrondissements, or districts, linked by Place de la République.
The plaza will also feature several new additions in the hopes of creating a healthier public space. While preserving the 19th century candelabras around the square, new eco-friendly lights will be added to brighten the square at night for both drivers and pedestrians. New honey locust trees will join the existing greenery to create shade during the summer, providing more of a public-garden feel to the plaza. Reflecting pools will provide refreshment, targeted for children, with water jets and misters.
In keeping with the green vision, construction workers on the site have all been trained in cleaning techniques to minimize dust and other pollution. Additionally, while conserving the existing greenery, the engineers are also trying to recycle the material that they are removing from the streets, hoping to use it to repave the roads.
Locals stopping by the information stand seem happy about the renovations, nodding in approval at the modifications. Neighborhood resident Marie-Claude Bramel said that République has become less desirable in the 10 years she has lived there. “I’d cross the square as fast as possible,” she said. While hopeful that the end result matches the artists’ renderings, Bramel is content to deal with the construction. “It’s annoying, but I’m happy that it’s happening,” she said.
Until 2013, traffic around the square will remain disrupted as drivers and bikers begin to adapt to the new patterns. Construction will continue through the spring of 2013 if everything remains on schedule.
Photo: Place de la Republique 2013