Monday, August 01, 2011

“rive gauche,” a term that fires romantic images of Paris as a haven for art and culture in millions. In truth, today’s struggling artists and hipsters have moved east to neighborhoods away from the Seine and in some cases to the suburbs, for affordable housing and workspaces. At the risk of a very gross generalization, Paris can be thought of as four zones, the arrondissements touching the Seine with those of the Right Bank, serving their traditional role as the haven for government and finance, while those on the Left Bank represent the businessfication of art. The west can be accused as being the domain of the haute bourgeoisie or at least the established and comfortable, while Paris to the east is home to the rest of us.

But since the early 1990’s Paris Rive Gauche has meant something specific, the redevelopment of an obsolete industrial area along the Seine, in the 13th, into a mixed use development. An area several blocks wide, running from Gare d’Austerlitz to Le Periph, Paris Rive Gauche is a development Parisians, native and ex pat, love to hate. Partly it is the architecture, modernism with its glass curtain walls and expanses of concrete, along with re-purposed industrial buildings and partly it is the scale. While not tall by New York standards, the buildings are tall for Paris and since most were designed to house large corporate offices with many employees, the ground level of the side streets are often blank walls, behind which are loading docks, parking garages and the like.

The commercial and residential streets are the antithesis of Haussmann Paris. Again scale and architecture play a part. In much of Paris the street level has a distinct feel with relatively narrow, but deep retail spaces that reflect the style of the occupant and most areas are dominated by proprietor owned shops. In PRG the retail spaces tend to be broad and shallow, reflecting the need to use the interior space of the building for other purposes. Also the retailers tend to be corporate, chains and well funded start ups, as they are the only businesses that can afford the rents, so the feeling of personal style is lost. Add to that immature landscaping and the area can feel somewhat sterile.

But being surrounded by the beauty of Haussmann Paris requires living in Haussmann Paris and there are trade-offs. Tiny, oddly laid out apartments, walkups, electrical and mechanical systems that often date from the 1950’s, if not WWI and then there is the parking or lack of it. So leaving a meeting in RPG, I found myself near a condo complex with a sales office and I thought, why not take a look?

There was no receptionist in the sales office, just the three representatives. Two seemed bored at my arrival, the third, a woman, nearly broke a heel rushing over to claim me. I’m blaming the Kelly, I was carrying it, and she pegged me as a rich wife or well kept mistress. We chatted a bit and she gave me a tour of the model, explaining what was in the base price and what the possible upgrades (anything) were. I described what I wanted for space, a one bedroom with an office/den, kitchen open to the dining area (odd in Paris), living room and one and a half baths. With that we were off to see a space, on a higher, mid floor with a view of the Seine and a balcony large enough for a café table and a couple of chairs in addition to a chaise.

It was lovely and only 2.5M €, plus upgrades of course. Now my little place with the tiny kitchen, doesn’t seem so bad, it has an elevator, attached parking and I opened the wall between the kitchen and living area. It does lack the office/den, but the rent is only slightly more than the monthly maintenance fee in the PRG apartment. I appreciate it more. Plus it has one of those lovely Haussmann Paris streetscapes.



Anonymous VJ said...

Yep, makes you appreciate what you've got more. Which is a good thing too. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

6:39 AM  
Anonymous VJ said...

In other money news there's this:

Cheers, 'VJ'

11:53 AM  

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