Going for Growth

Paris approves first skyscraper in 40 years


Paris has approved its first skyscraper in over 40 years, ushering in construction for a controversial 590-foot building in the south of the city.

The Paris city council approved the privately-backed 500 million euro ($555 million) "Tour Triangle" by a 13-vote majority on Tuesday, following months of opposition.

The pyramid-shaped building will be roughly the same height as the "Gherkin" skyscraper in London's financial district, but around half the height of New York's Empire State building.

A mock-up of the Tour Triangle, Paris' first skyscraper approved in over 40 years.
Herzog & de Meuron and Unibail-Rodamco

Financed by Unibail-Rodamco, a French commercial real estate company, the Tour Triangle will be the first skyscraper to go up in Paris since the Montparnasse building was completed in 1973.

Parisians have historically opposed the erection of skyscrapers and the original Tour Triangle plan was shot down back in November.

But since then, blueprints have been changed to include more public space, Jean-Louis Missika, the Parisian deputy mayor in charge of urban planning and architecture, told CNBC.

The project was narrowly passed by Paris' city council on Tuesday with 87 votes in favor and 74 votes against.

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Construction is now expected to begin in the city's 17th arrondissement near the end of 2016 and should be completed by 2020.

The building will be designed by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron and will now feature a cultural area, co-working offices and a "sky bar," as well as private office space, a conference centre, restaurant and an 120-room hotel.

The decision to approve the building has proved controversial, with the "Collective against the Triangle Tour" condemning seven elected officials who, the group said, had "betrayed the trust of Parisians" by voting for the project.

The group pointed to energy-inefficient offices and poor public transport links to the area, saying it planned to take its case to the European Commission.

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"The Paris of tomorrow cannot be build according to the recipes of yesterday," the group said in a statement on its website.

However, Missika told CNBC that the Tour Triangle would help usher in a new era of urban development in the city.

"I think it's a turning point," he told CNBC in a phone interview.

"Paris and the Parisians had been traumatized by all the big buildings that were built in the 70s. This is why there was so much difficulty accepting high-level buildings in Paris."

Parisians would have a change of heart after seeing how the Tour Triangle and other projects like the new Palais de Justice added character to the city skyline, he added.

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"They won't be ugly like the others. These buildings are iconic."

Paris' Socialist Party mayor, Anne Hidalgo, trumpeted the Tour Triangle in a speech to the council on Tuesday.

"I have always considered that the Triangle Tower was...a wonderful opportunity," she said.

"The chance of a 500 million euros investment, plus 500 million for the exhibition center at Porte de Versailles and 5,000 jobs in the crisis context we are facing….the chance finally of new pathways to shape our future."