Grand Paris Sud (GPS) is an urban agglomeration created in 2016 by the merging of 24 municipalities some of which are New Towns founded in the years 1970s of the last century. These cities have responded to the challenge of welcoming tens of thousands of inhabitants from different places in the world by providing housing, transport and jobs. Nowadays, the population is extremely diverse in terms of ethnic origins and religious denominations. In the context of mass unemployment, coupled with the attacks in Paris, France is currently experiencing a disturbing identity crisis. The finger is often pointed at the melting pot of the suburbs; the migrants and their descendants are increasingly accused of causing the evils in French society. How to better understand the ongoing changes and value the potential offered by the migrant population in the development of contemporary urban culture?
With 343.000 inhabitants, Grand Paris Sud is the fifth most populated area in the Île-de-France region and one of the driving forces behind population growth in the Île de France region. Grand Paris Sud is the culmination of an ambitious project for the territory, of a desire to outweigh next to grand Paris, to increase the territory’s attractiveness, to create and support large-scale projects and to be involved regularly. Since its creation in January 2016, many decisions have ensured the creation of a message, an identity born from consensus and a team devoted to the project and to the public interest. This collective effort has encouraged innovative and ambitious public policies.
The ‘Master plan’ in the 1970’s: the creation of five new towns.
At the end of the Second World War, France began to reconstruct its economy, to organize its territory, and to build new housing in response to a high demand. Ten different sites were chosen for the construction of new towns (five in the Ile de France region, of major importance, and five in other regions of continental France). The five new towns in Ile de France - Cergy Pontoise, Evry, Melun, Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines and Senart – were completed and welcomed their first residents at the beginning of the 1970s. These new towns offered such amenities as administrative services and shopping malls. At the beginning of the 1990s, other public works and buildings saw the day: universities, internationally-known research centers (the Evry Genopole). And, in the case of Evry, religious structures were built (a mosque, a cathedral, a pagoda) which enjoy national and even international visibility, and which contribute to the evolution of the city, giving it a new cultural and religious dimension.
Some of the towns of Grand Paris Sud are traditional towns, possessing a historical and cultural heritage. They also possess neighborhoods called «grands ensembles» characterized by horizontal blocks of tall buildings and tower blocks built in the 1960s in response to the housing crisis of Greater Paris. The GPS neighborhoods referred to as La Grande Borne (Grigny), Les Tarterêts (Corbeil-Essonnes) and Les Pyramides (Evry) were built at this time. In the 1970s, the French government decided that these «grands ensembles» had failed in that they did not provide their inhabitants with the living conditions they had hoped for. In order to anticipate population growth and to improve living conditions, a new development policy was launched in the 1970s: the creation of five new towns. To develop these towns, the government financed the necessary infrastructures and took measures to incite people, administrations and businesses to settle there. Evry and Senart were among the new towns. Both are today part of the agglomeration of Grand Paris Sud.
Although they may be recent, these new towns today are undergoing major social and spatial change. The installation of a diverse foreign population (Moroccan, Algerian, Malian, Senegalese, Indian, Turkish, Chinese, Laotian, Pakistani, Portuguese, etc.) induces various changes (demographic, social, cultural, economic) and challenges public policy in an evolving urban territory, increasingly connected to the rest of the world.
Evry-Ville-nouvelle was created on April 12, 1969 by the public planning authority of the city of Evry (Etablissement public d’aménagement de la ville d’Evry, or EPEVRY). The ‘ville nouvelle’ (new town) was composed of four communes, Evry-Petit-Bourg, Bondoufle, Courcouronnes and Lisses. In 1965, the Paris Region Strategic Plan proposed the broad lines of intended development of the city which takes account of the consequences of inevitable growth and of the need for promoting better living conditions. This in order to harmonize and to control the development of the Region at different levels such as habitation, employment, leisure, transportation.
The new town of Senart was created on October 15, 1973 by the public planning authority of Senart (Etablissement public d’aménagement, or EPA). It is composed of ten communes: Cesson, Combs-la-Ville, Lieusaint, Moissy-Cramayel, Nandy, Réau, Savigny-le-Temple, Vert-Saint-Denis (all located in the county of Seine-et-Marne), Tigery and Saint-Pierre-du-Perray (in Essonne). From the first of January 2016, the 10 communes of Sénart belong to the Grand Paris Sud Urban Community. Sénart has responded to many challenges, particularly that of regulating and organizing spontaneous urban growth in the outer suburbs of the Paris region and accommodating part of that regional population growth. The city is recognized as a strategic territory for the development of the Paris Metropolis.
The New Town Lab - Migrants in a new town: a process of citizenship
This New Town Lab , organized by Grand Paris Sud, wants to analyze the causes and effects of these various changes and propose a reflection upon the role (and the contribution) of immigrants and their descendants in the unfolding story of the new towns. In the 1960s and 1970s, the New Towns favored the settlement of many communities, but the current context is less welcoming of new populations. This is reason enough to reflect upon the place of migrants, the conditions of their arrival, and their integration. This is the aim of the "New Towns, Arrival Cities" European project.
We propose a program designed to treat the history of GPS New Towns (urbanism-sociology) with presentations by specialists and field trips, visits to neighborhoods with particular attention paid to the "Town policy" neighborhoods in the New Town (Evry, les Pyramides and Savigny-Le-Temple, downtown) combined with meetings with neighborhood associations, inhabitants, guided tours of religious sites (Cathedral, Mosque, Pagoda). A seminar organized at the University of Evry will allow for discussion between the various delegations (including their own experiences in the matter), associations, academics and other participants in three workshops dedicated to 1- citizenship, 2- culture and religion, 3-trade. These workshops are led by academics and will conclude with a wrap-up session.
A territory undergoing radical transformations
There are nineteen “Town policy” neighborhoods situated in 7 different municipalities, seven in Evry and two in Sénart. The goal of the “Town policy” program run by GPS is to profoundly transform the existing urban structures with a program of housing renewal and a major commitment in reducing social and territorial inequalities. Therefor it is intended to transform the existing urban structures into "ordinary" urban spaces having a variety of functions and types of housing, open and connected to the rest of the city, with welcoming and inclusive public spaces. With this objective in mind, Grand Paris Sud is working to diversify and reconnect these neighborhoods by offering them a new role to play and by changing the nature and quality of the housing. Moreover, Grand Paris Sud is faced with a major challenge to reduce inequality, which requires more than simple improvement of the housing stock: the values of the French republic must be renewed, and all forms of discrimination must be combatted. The attractiveness of the Grand Paris Sud territory should serve its citizens and enhance social cohesion while uniting its inhabitants around certain shared values.
Grand Paris Sud sees itself as a territory of potential, open and with a prosperous economy. It is in this way that it mobilizes its strengths, manages its specificities, defends its municipalities and serves its inhabitants and local actors. The Agglomeration’s energy, talent and means are concentrated on four major areas so as to allow each inhabitant to grow and in order to develop both the human and the economic value of the territory: (1) transportation which links and connects, (2) economic activity and education to enhance the territory’s value and create jobs, (3) culture, sports and life-long learning, and (4) quality of the every day life, especially in the "Town policy" neighborhoods.
– Potential and prosperous economy
– Stimulating student life
– Strong culture
– Reform neighborhood buildings
– Reduce social and territorial inequalities
– Develop both the human and the economic value of the territory
Questions for New Town Lab
The New Towns of Grand Paris Sud have always welcomed migrant populations. This lab wants to explore the territorial impact of their arrival:
– How New Towns have evolved: what is the place of migrants in the town, what are the demographic questions, how the migrants take possession of the neighborhood?
– Trade and urban development: how have they responded to the needs of the new populations?
– How have the migrants resolved (or not resolved) the problems (neglected by the French public policy and, because of this, addressed by the local associations)like the cultural and linguistic issues and the legal and administrative assistance?
– How do migrants integrate in the French secular society and how does French society allow this integration?
– Is there a process of hybridization of cultures? How do the residents living in the neighborhoods perceive the migrant populations? What is the citizenship process that we need to set in motion for migrants to become citizens?