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BORDEAUX - MORE THAN JUST THE WORLD CAPITAL OF WINE

Author: Graham Downie, August 2018

When it comes to regeneration, few cities can match what Bordeaux has achieved. It took a man with a vision and the clout to implement it: Alain Juppé, mayor of the French city on the Garonne since 2010.

The former prime minister of France, borrowed from national politics on a long lease, took a beautiful but sleepy neoclassical city and dragged it into the modern age, revitalising the property market in the process.

He created a high-tech public transport system, redeveloped the riverfront area, regenerated the city centre and pedestrianized boulevards. Respect for the history of the town went hand in hand with a desire to be contemporary: period buildings were restored to their former glory, their facades gleaming, but new buildings were also commissioned, such as the new football stadium, designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, and La Cité du Vin, the mega-museum of wine built in the shape of a decanter to celebrate the region’s world-renowned strength. The Bordeaux wine business is worth €15 bn a year.

National infrastructure helped too: the new TGV train that was launched last year cuts the journey from Paris to Bordeaux to 2 hours and the high-speed link has had an immediate effect in attracting more people to the city. Easier transport links have accelerated the internal migration from North to South in general and from the capital to Bordeaux in particular.

More than 70% of Bordeaux’s new arrivals are from the Greater Paris area. People and companies looking for a better quality of life, pleasant surroundings and significantly cheap- er homes and offices have settled in the city recently. Average residential prices are half of what they are in Paris, while prime office rents are €180m, compared to €300 in Lyon and €825m in Paris CBD. The city’s success in attracting people and companies has led to a building spree, with many projects underway, the redevelopment of the old docklands and plans to use the largely neglected right bank of the river across from the Bassin-à-flots. Development is also taking place at Bordeaux airport, supporting the growth of the logistics sector. Even retail is flourishing, with new projects not just in the city centre, like the Promenade Sainte-Catherine scheme, but in catchment areas like Pessac.

Juppé has plans to make Bordeaux a city of 1m people, and to create 100,000 new jobs, by 2030. He has launched the ‘Bordeaux Magnétique’ campaign that seeks to combine the city’s different strengths - the wine industry, the University with its centres of excellence, the growing cluster of start-ups - to attract and facilitate foreign direct investment, rolling out the red carpet while cutting red tape.

The mayor’s message is that Bordeaux is a young and dynamic city (one in ten of inhabitants is a student) that does not rely on past glories but is keen to propel itself into new high-tech sectors and attract local and foreign companies. In order to deliver on this latest part of his ambitious long-term plan, Juppé is likely to put himself forward as candidate for mayor for the 5th time in 2020.

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