Property development at Euralille

In the words of Rem Koolhaas, Euralille is based on the hypothesis that the perception of Europe is going to change completely under the dual impact of the trans-Channel tunnel and the extension of the high-speed train network. If this hypothesis is borne out, Lille, as the receptacle of a great many typically modern activities, will gain considerable importance. The TGV high-speed train lines will take the place of the old fortifications that have been eaten up by a sprawling periphery. And with the hybrid and timely presence of a gigantic futuristic project a stone's throw from the historical centre, activities formerly considered to be peripheral will move towards the heart of the city. Working within the existing context our task is to make a quantum leap towards a radical future as exotic as it is imminent. (¡.'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, 1992)

What are these 'typically modern activities'? And what sort of development organization and marketing strategy do they require? These points will be discussed in the following sections.

Fig. 5.4 Euralille: the elements of the programme. (Source: Euralille)

5.4.1 Functions

The list of functions of Euralille included in the now concluded first development phase, on an area of 70 ha, is as follows (see also Figure 5.4)

In the Centre Euralille, the triangular prism connecting the new station to the old one, there may be found:

• commercial areas covering 92 000 m2, of which an area of 31 000 m2 is net shopping floor space;

• leisure accommodation (5900 m2);

• a multifunctional space for performances, expositions and other events (2200 m2);

• catering in various forms (5250 m2);

• higher education (international business school, 18 570 m2);

• public services (4000 m2, including post office, municipal office, daycare centre, and a 'silent place' for spiritual meditation);

• temporary housing (11216 m2, 407 units);

• private services (in a first phase 5821 m2; an additional 11 717 m2 are planned);

The shopping centre contains one 'Carrefour' hypermarket (12000 m2), sev mid-sized premises, and 130 boutiques. The food sector represents 20% of the supply, personal equipment 16%, cultural and leisure products 11%, restaurants 6%, and home appliances 5%. One-tenth of the retailers are foreign; a third are, by contract, regional. Fifteen million visitors per year are expected. There are long daily opening times, but on Sundays the centre is closed. The housing programme includes 168 up-market flats, 198 serviced student flats, 12 temporary flats for researchers, 52 lodgings for travelling railway employees, and a self-catering hotel with 143 flats.

The Cité des Affaires encompasses the new TGV station and the three towers above it. There are:

• 39 720 m2 of offices in the World Trade Centre and the Credit Lyonnais towers;

• 15 449 m2 of restaurants, business services and other (temporary) offices, exhibition rooms, and shops in the base of the WTC tower and directly adjoining the TGV station hall;

• a four-star hotel (11 000 m2, 204 rooms, not built yet);

• parking (32 880 m2, 1370 places, 250 of which are reserved for users of the station).

The World Trade Centre is a crucial element in the development strategy of Euralille. As an authentic global communication node (including advanced telecommunications), it 'will allow firms to meet their partners, present their products, and establish business relationships with the whole world.'

In the Lille-Grand Palais, the oval congress centre at some distance from the stations, there are:

• 18 000 m2 of diversified congress space (12 meeting rooms, three auditoria for 1500, 500 and 350 people, and a subdividable space for up to 400 people);

• 20 000 m2 of partitionable exhibition space;

• an event hall with a capacity of 5500 people (7500 m2);

• catering facilities.

The catering sector includes a banquet hall for 1600 guests, a cafeteria for 400 meals, an a la carte restaurant for 80-100 meals, and parking (29 520 m2, 1230 places). To these should be added:

• the European Foundation of the City and Architecture (FEVA, 8500 m2, not built yet);

• another 400 housing units (25% as social housing, not built yet);

• a tertiary complex of regional scope located in the bordering municipality of La Madeleine and associated ex post to Euralille (74 500 m2, of which 45 000 m2 is for offices).

All the functions listed above belong to a 'first phase'. Provisions have been made for future expansion, most notably of the office content. The row of towers, for instance, could be extended along the TGV line in a southerly direction. The total cost is estimated at Fr 5300 million, of which Fr 3700 million (70%) comes from private sources, Fr 500 million (9%) comes from semi-public sources, and Fr 1100 million (21%) is publicly funded. The great majority of this programme was completed by the summer of 1997.

Euralille also has a specific job-creation programme. An 'economic and social accompaniment mission' has been established. Its task is to train and place the local unemployed (528 persons had been employed through the programme as of September 1994). In 1996, 2800 were employed at Euralille, of whom 1530 were in the shopping centre. Of the total number of jobs, about 2000 are said to be new. In the long term, 2000-3000 employees are expected to be working in the office buildings, and a total of 5000 in the area. The hope is that 40% of these will be new jobs.

5.4.2 Organization

The Euralille SEM combines the functions of promotion (one-third of the budget in the first two years), global coordination and management of the operation, and the direct development of single elements of the programme, such as parking spaces and the congress and exhibition centre. For the remaining parts, development rights are sold to public and private developers, which in turn sell the buildings to investors. These new owners either use the premises themselves (for example, 40% of the Credit Lyonnais tower) or rent out the space (such as the remaining 60% of the Credit Lyonnais tower). In the case of the shopping centre, the developers themselves are also investors and users. The initial capital of the SEM was originally fixed at Fr 35 million and later at Fr 50 million. As prescribed by law, local authorities hold the majority of shares. In 1994, the government participants represented included:

• municipalities (Lille with 16.5%, and La Madeleine, Roubaix, Tourcoing, and Villeneuve d'Ascq, each with 2.5%);

• the metropolitan government (16.5%);

The private investors, many of whom were already represented in the study partnership, included:

• regional banks (Scalbert-Dupont 7.3%, Banque Populaire du Nord 7.3%);

• national banks (Caisse de Dépôts et Consignations 7.3%, Credit Lyonnais 7.3%, and Indosuez 4.4%);

• international banks (National Westminster Bank, Bank of Tokyo, Banca San Paolo di Torino, Générale de Banque, each with about 1%);

• the insurance company Lloyd Continental.

SNCF (represented by its subsidiary SCETA) has a 3% share, the same as the local chamber of commerce. Part of the contribution of the city of Lille is in the form of land.

Financial feasibility has been a leading criterion in setting up the project organization. In the words of Baïetto:

I think our work prior to start-up was fundamental. We gave ourselves the time to think about the financial set up, to see what was possible and what was not, to consider what we could get from the collective bodies and private partners concerned, and what this would mean in terms of overall financial balancing. (l'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, 1992)

Euralille can be seen as a mixture of smaller projects funded by private investors within a master plan defined by the public sector and coordinated by a nominally mixed, though public sector controlled, management agency. (Newman and Thornley, 1995, p. 242)

These smaller, independent projects include (infrastructure not considered) the World Trade Centre, the Credit Lyonnais tower, the hotel tower, the Centre Euralille (shopping centre), the Lille Grand Palais (congress and exhibition centre), complementary programmes (park, parking, FEVA), and an associated tertiary programme (le Portes du Romarin).

5.4.3 Marketing

Unlike other examples of great urban projects in Europe, little if any of the property supply in Euralille is purely speculative. Rather, a dialogue has been sought with the market to work out specific hypotheses. It is not generic function that are planned in Lille, but rather initiatives. In other words, the mix of functions of Euralille has grown along with its marketing (the search for developers, investors and users). The property marketing strategy is geared towards maximum use of the exceptional qualities of the location, but the objective is to be reached without disrupting the metropolitan real estate markets.

In 1996, the average office prices at Euralille were Fr 11 314 per m2 for sale and Fr 1044 per m2 per year for rent. It is contended that prices were about a third of what could be found in London, Brussels or Paris, and 10% higher than elsewhere in the metropolitan area. Offices have been put on the market gradually, not to exceed 20-25% of the local annual supply; in a metropolitan market of 90 000-100 000 m2/year, not more than 20 000-25 000 m2/year have been offered. Furthermore, it is argued that this supply is very specific (prestigious address, floor space of more than 1500 m2, 'smart buildings', etc.), an d more mentary than concurrent to that of the rest of the metropolitan area. The aim is to make a new offer on the metropolitan market primarily to attract companies trading in Europe's north-western markets but who have not yet set up in the region, together with regional companies seeking an international showcase. Before March 1995, 45 000 m2 were put on the market. Part of the new space was already reserved by the developers and investors: for example, 40% of the Credit Lyonnais tower. Also, the property market of the Lille region has been hit less hard than markets elsewhere by the property crisis. In 1993, for instance, there was 300 000 m2 of empty office space in Lyon (a metropolitan area of similar size), compared with 36 500 m2 of vacant office space in Lille.

Starting in 1994, various elements of Euralille have come into use. In subsequent years, some preliminary evaluations were also made. Of course, these are only very early appraisals. They were carried out when several of the conditions on which the marketing formula was based (such as the existence of a north European HST network) were only very partially realized. Also, the European and especially the French economy have been going through a difficult period. The economic slump discouraged new initiatives, and constrained public and private spending. Nevertheless, the emerging picture already revealed what the most and the least successful aspects of the project were to be. The conclusion drawn in several studies (Agence de développement et d'urbanisme de la métro-pole lilloise, 1996; Menerault and Stissi-Epée, 1996; Observatoire des bureaux de la métropole lilloise, 1996) and confirmed by our interviews in Lille is as follows.

The position of Lille as a service pole in the region has been strengthened. Even nationally, Euralille seems to have helped the city to hold onto its share. However, the international tertiary centre, which was fervently desired, has not yet materialized. Detailed information on the commercialization and performance of the various components supports this conclusion (Agence de développement et d'urbanisme de la métropole lilloise, 1996). The shopping complex, including the hypermarket, is doing fairly well: with a few exceptions, the premises have all been let. As a consequence, the centre of Lille as a whole has reinforced its role among metropolitan consumers, stretching across the Belgian border. As envisaged, Euralille appears to be developing in a fashion that is complementary rather than concurrent to the historic city centre, reminiscent of the function of Hoog Catharijne in Utrecht (Chapter 6). But the ambition of creating a different, high-profile supply, geared to the international consumer, has not yet been realized. The data on the use of the cultural, entertainment and congress and exhibition facilities are also encouraging. Lille here had to fill a gap in the supply, and the new facilities have been used to capacity. The apartments have been absorbed by the market; they are fully occupied by the special target groups that they were built for. Finally, accommodation facilities are also performing well, even though the four-star hotel is still on the drawing board. (This is not the only part of the plan still awaiting construction. The architecture centre FEVA has been put off indefinitely, and the social housing is planned for the near future.)

The weakest point of the entire operation appears to be the office element, despite all the caution and the limited quantities built. Of the total of 63 395 m2 of offices, only 30 983 m2 or 49% was in use as of April 1997. Even in the current modest upturn of the market, locations on the periphery appear to be doing better than those in Euralille (Observatoire des bureaux de la métropole lilloise, 1996). Several explanations have been offered. Of course, the economic downturn weighed heavily. Second, the various properties have very different appeal. The Credit Lyonnais tower was 64% let, the Atrium 89%, and Eurocity 77%. The real problem was the 25 100 m2 of the Lilleurope tower, which was 100% empty. The tower is owned by a national consortium of banks. For them, the tower is just a marginal asset. Until recently, they

RAILWAY STATION AREA REDEVELOPMENT IN FRANCE Table 5.2 Property development at Euralillea

Surface area 70 ha

RAILWAY STATION AREA REDEVELOPMENT IN FRANCE Table 5.2 Property development at Euralillea

Surface area 70 ha

Area ownership

SEM Euralille (City of Lille)

Total floorspace

273 710 m2 (28 220 uncertain)


45 720 m2

Private services

22 290 m2 (8720 uncertain)

Congress/exhibition space

38 000 m2

Permanent housing

6380 m2 (168 units)

Temporary housing

11 220 (407 units)


15 600 m2


31 000 m2 net

Hotel, restaurants, cafes

18 600 m2 ( 11 000 uncertain)


11 400 m2

Public services

4000 m2

Foundation for Architecture

8500 m2 (uncertain)


6100 places

Costs (including railway infrastructure)

Fr 5300 million (70% private, 21% public,

9% semi-public)

a To this, 74 500 m2 of floor space in the adjacent development of Le Portes du Romarin may be added, including offices (45 000 m2), a hotel, housing (160 units), services, and shops.

a To this, 74 500 m2 of floor space in the adjacent development of Le Portes du Romarin may be added, including offices (45 000 m2), a hotel, housing (160 units), services, and shops.

had tried without success to find one single large user. According to sources in Lille, the current (summer 1997) more flexible marketing approach might bear fruit. Third, and perhaps most interestingly, the difficulty of letting the office space casts doubt on some of the basic assumptions of the initiative. In particular, it erodes the belief that Euralille could become a hub for international firms operating on the European market. Again, there might be some change on the way. But there is still a risk that Lille will simply be bypassed. Instead, it is quite conceivable that the vertex points of the golden triangle of Paris-London-Brussels will continue to attract the internationallyoriented activities

Table 5.2 provides a summary of the key data of property development at Euralille.

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