Twenty-eight megacities with more than 10 million residents, according to the United Nations. A number that has tripled since 1990 and will continue to inflate; in 2050, 75% of the world’s population will live in cities. Faced with this report, cities are trying to limit their carbon footprint by creating eco-districts. But, how can they do this? Demolish everything in order to rebuild or start from scratch? In France, Lyon is testing the two methods.
It was the last block of the “Mille;” a gray tower measuring 45 meters (49 yards) which sheltered 339 families. It was demolished this past July, marking a turning point in the transformation of the Duchère district, in Lyon.
Built in the sixties, in the northwest part of the city, Duchère was only a vast collection of apartment blocks. Rent-controlled housing (HLM), immigration, unemployment, dangerous district; that is what the residents of Lyon thought when they lifted their eyes towards this 9th arrondissement neighborhood in Lyon, perched on the third highest hill of the city.
But in 2003 the working-class district was transformed into an eco-district. Human scale buildings, each with no more than seven floors, with balconies, gardens and underground parking spaces, have replaced the towers. They are all located at less than 150 meters (164 yards) from a bus stop and 3.2 km (2 miles) of bicycle lanes have been created. There is also one hectare (2.5 acres) of green roofs. And almost 5,000 housing units connected to the urban biomass heating system. Finally, the Vallon Park, the green lung of the district, was entirely redeveloped.
“The challenge was to regenerate the city,” summarized Michel Le Faou, president of the Urbanism Agency in Lyon, deputy mayor of Lyon and vice-president of the megacity of Lyon, in a guided tour during the World Summit of Climate and Territories. In total, 1,754 housing units will be demolished and rebuilt from now until 2018. Since 2003, 1,570 families have had to be relocated. But only 47% of those have found a new home in Duchère.
The objective of the municipality is clear: By launching these renovations, they wish to balance the district’s income diversity that had until today 80% rent-controlled housing. Thanks to a program providing easier access to home ownership, this ratio is only 60% and will surpass 54% in 2018.
After two years of immersion, Sarah Rojon, a Sociology PhD candidate, published a study, ordered by the Lyon Duchère project in 2010. She warned about the “symbolic boundaries” and the “disagreement” that could result between the new district center, completely renovated, and the rest of the city.
Extending the City-Center
In the south of Lyon, there are other questions that are worrying the urbanists of the Confluence Ecodistrict. Located on the peninsula of Lyon, between the Rhône and the Saône, this 150 hectare (370 acres) space is a link with the city-center, separated by the Perrache train station.
Until now, the barriers of the railway and the highway A7 made the district unattractive and hard-to-access. Occupied mainly by blue collar workers, it housed the the old port area, industrial activities and the wholesale marketplace. Since 2003, Confluence was redesigned and, here, unlike Duchère, everything, or almost everything, was new construction.
The first phase of the project, on the side of Saône, is almost completed. In total, 2,000 eco-designed housing units will be raised from the ground. Among them, the Region Hotel, which was relocated in the district, the regional headquarters of Le Progrès, and a boat shaped 53,000 square-meter (58,000 square-yard) mall. All these structures are in compliance with strict environmental specifications, with a consumption less than half the thermal requirements standard (less than 50kWh by square-meters per year) and an extensive use of renewable energies.
What about consumption?
The second phase of the project focuses on the old wholesale marketplace, with energy-plus-houses, intended to create more energy than they consume. The existing Sainte-Blandine district, close to the train station, will be eco-renovated, with, for example, the installation of smart meters, which will allow families to understand their energy consumption.
Since 2010, the World Wild Fund (WWF) has supported with the project. The objective? Place the threshold even higher. The process was already tested in London and at Mata de Sesimbra, in Portugal. It rests on ten principles: zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, local and sustainable materials, fairness and diversity, biodiversity, local and sustainable food… and also well-being.
Eventually, the Confluence District will have 16,000 residents. Twenty-five percent will be rent-controlled housing.
Are there any sustainable urban projects in your city? Do they also qualify as revitalization projects? Is your city making an effort in creating ecodistricts or reducing its footprint? Share your city's stories and your thoughts in the comments area below.
Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.