Provence & Côte d’Azur: What will Nice look like by the end of Estrosi’s second term?
After a first term which saw many changes in Nice, Mayor Christian Estrosi’s second term is already packed with construction and renovation projects including transportation, parks, business areas and sports infrastructures. So what is the future city of Nice likely to look like?
Since the mayor was re-elected with significant margins in the recent municipals, it seems he should be able to carry out many of the construction projects he has planned for Nice during his second term.
Though many of the ideas backed by Estrosi have been criticised by the left for being too costly, those such as the Allianz Riviera stadium or the Promenade du Paillon park, which both opened last year, have undoubtedly provided a major facelift for Nice.
And unlike the 2008 elections, which left the UMP mayor with significant opposition in the city council, the path is now clear for him to implement major renovations and transportation projects in the city. Here are the main ones which are planned for his second term:
Commercial zone in Saint Isidore’s eco-district
While the Allianz Riviera stadium is the central building block of this part of town, it was never planned to be an isolated structure, and the whole eco-quartier surrounding it is intended to become a crucial part of Nice’s future, with 100,000 square metres of housing and business areas.
Construction of the shopping centre began this month, April 2014. The retail stores will cover a surface of 22,700 square metres and are expected to create 500 jobs, including 350 at the long-awaited Ikea store which is planned to open in 2016.
The second line of the tramway is among Estrosi’s flagship projects and should connect the airport in the west of Nice to the port in the east. Though there was some criticism from Socialist mayoral candidate Patrick Allemand about the underground section of the tram line, Allemand’s historically low numbers in the election suggest it is a non-issue for the majority of Nice’s residents.
As a result, construction for the tunnel’s entrance and exit is scheduled to start in September 2014, while equipment for digging the tunnel should be on site in late 2015. The 3.2-kilometre-long tunnel is expected to take 11 months but the mayor argues this shouldn’t be an inconvenience for residence or shopkeepers as it is underground.
Construction on the surface is set to start in 2015 and should take two years to finish. While the section from Jean Médecin to the port was originally scheduled to be completed by 2019, Estrosi told local daily Nice Matin that the whole line should be operational as early as 2017, making the trip from the airport to the port only 26 minutes.
At the west end of this tramway line, a ‘multimodal exchange hub’ – enabling passengers to switch between tram, bus, VéloBleu and even airplane – should start being built in 2016 and be up and running by 2019.
Though construction of the second tramway line hasn’t even started yet, the mayor has already announced another ambitious public transport project: a third tramway line towards Saint Isidore’s eco-district and the new stadium.
The schedule isn’t set it stone yet, however. A temporary date was given for 2018 but it could be pushed back another two years if the 65-million-euro project fails to receive a 10-million-euro grant from the government.
Promenade des Ponchettes
The rooftops of the buildings between the Cours Saleya and the Quai des Etats Unis, on either side of the rue des Ponchettes, used to be known as the Promenade des Ponchettes and were accessible to the public until 1961.
Now, more than 50 years later, residents and tourists may once again enjoy the scenery from up above in just a few months. Renovations should start by the end of 2014 and the brand new Ponchettes is expected to open in 2015.
Gare du Sud renovations
The massive 1,500 square metre library covering four floors was inaugurated in the Gare du Sud in January 2014, but there is still much to do in the way of renovating the old train station.
By the end of the year, municipal services should start building an underground parking, with an announced capacity of 700 cars, as well as renovating the station’s main hall, which should take two years.
This project was supposed to have started in 2012 but was opposed by former mayor Jacques Peyrat. Now that he is no longer in the municipal council, Estrosi is eager to move forward.
Additional parts of the Gare du Sud projects include a large multiplex cinema, apartment buildings and student residences, due to be completed by 2018.
Ray Stadium area
Since the Allianz Riviera stadium was inaugurated in September 2014, it has been announced that the old Ray Stadium will be demolished and the area replaced with a park, sports infrastructures, an underground car park and apartment buildings with 80 to 100 flats.
Over the past few months, the city has asked for residents of that district to give their input on what should take the stadium’s place. The municipal council will now select three construction projects and residents will have the opportunity to vote for the best one.
Though the specifics still need to be narrowed down, construction is expected to commence by the end of 2015 and finish in early 2017.
Voie Mathis exit tunnel
If you drive around Nice, you have probably noticed that traffic jams are not an unusual occurrence, especially around the west end of the Voie Matis highway, also called the ‘voie rapide’. The area has been a traffic black spot for years and is congested nearly every morning.
To improve traffic flow, the highway exit will be rearranged, with a tunnel under Grinda avenue and the route de Grenoble. Construction is likely to take two years and be finished in 2018.
New exhibition centre
In an attempt to rival cities such as Barcelona and Milan, Nice should have a new exhibition centre, or ‘parc des expositions’, which will be located near the airport.
The 75,000 square metre exhibition centre will be located where the Marché d’Intéret National (MIN) flower market currently is. To make way for the project, the MIN will be moved to the La Baronne area, in La Gaude, a few kilometres north of where it currently is.
Construction for the new exhibition centre is said to start in 2017 and it should be up and running by the end of 2018.
Once the new exhibition centre is open to the public, the ‘Acropolis Expositions’ building at the east end of the Voie Mathis will be redundant. At that point, the municipality will start a two year construction project to convert it into a massive sports ‘palace’ with a capacity of 5,000 to 7,000 people.
So, while these projects may seem ambitious and exciting, it is important to note that many of them aren’t final yet. The main criticism of Estrosi’s first term was his handling of the city’s finances. According to the mayor himself, the Nice Côte d’Azur Metropolis’ debt amounts to nearly one billion euros – 946.85 million – and one third of it can be attributed to the metropolis’ management of investments.
Though Estrosi seems confident about the future of the city’s economy, only time will tell how many of these projects the municipality will be able to afford.