The plan to transform the Champs-Élysées in Paris into an “extraordinary garden” has given new impetus to a similar proposal for Floriana, which has been on the shelves since 2014.
The 250 million euro renovation of the iconic avenue in the French capital has shown that the rue Sainte-Anne project – the idea of four architects – can really come to life.
Its promoters cannot understand why Malta can never be the first to come up with a pioneering project, pointing out that unfortunately it all comes down to a lack of vision.
If Paris can walk 1.9 kilometers from its main crossroads into green spaces and cut traffic in half, why can’t Malta turn a 400-meter strip into a pedestrian garden, the group of architects wondered.
Principal architect Ian Camilleri, who conceived the idea after working at Floriana for years, said Champs-Élysées “is going to beat us”.
But although Malta may have been capped to the pole by Paris, the green light project has also renewed hope in the possibility of transforming Floriana into the garden city for which it was originally built.
“We will never stop pushing. There are only positive points of the project, even from an economic point of view, ”said Camilleri.
Floriana’s green urban project was started by Camilleri and his fellow architects Adam Brincat, Anna Gallo and Bernard Vella of Floriana-based DHI Periti seven years ago with the aim of converting St Anne’s Street, the main artery main entering and leaving Valletta, into an attractive hub by tackling the heavy congestion and pollution generated in the city.
He proposes the removal of automobile traffic from the avenue by creating an underground tunnel that would free up the surface for landscaping to create a recreational area.
Regenerating the busy road into a public green space through a sustainable approach that would improve traffic flow around Floriana builds on government policies and may be a precursor for other localities, the architects argued.
It would breathe new social life into Floriana, while contributing to its economic growth and value, enhancing the experience, stimulating the regeneration of existing buildings and creating another tourist center.
A 2016 report also highlights the health benefits of the project, linked to green spaces regardless of socio-economic status.
There are only positive points of the project even from an economic point of view
A green city improves urban life, the report points out, with people likely to exercise more and a reduction in anti-social behavior and crime. It can also help meet the challenges of climate change.
Although “great interest” was shown in the project when it was presented to Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Planning, Aaron Farrugia, last March, “unfortunately there is no had no movement since, ”noted the architects.
Meanwhile, feedback over the years has been nothing but positive, they said, on what they described as “an upgrade for the country” on the lines of Cospicua’s Dock 1 project, considered as a perfect local case study of how an urban project for a dilapidated area can stimulate the social regeneration of its environment.
“We have to convince the government. He must realize the benefits of this project and we would need his commitment.
“For our part, we are convinced that the project can fit into the government’s vision for the regeneration of the port and the southern sectors.
Last year, Infrastructure Malta had said the proposal to turn St Anne’s Street into a garden could be seen as a future investment in the Maltese road network, but it had given priority to other projects that need to be completed from by 2025.
The authority had said it considers and supports all urban greening proposals by individuals, local councils and other organizations, especially when located in densely built-up areas.
In the case of Floriana’s proposal, cars would descend into the Lion Fountain tunnel and reappear just before the roundabout leading to Valletta, while Pope John Paul II’s Square would also be beautified.
The architects are working on new visuals to highlight the activity proposed under the arcades of rue St Anne. But, if not, the project that has been left on the back burner is eager to move forward.
Meanwhile, in Paris, one of the most beautiful avenues in the world – an eight-lane motorway used by an average of 3,000 vehicles per hour – will see space for cars cut in half, with tunnels of trees to improve air quality.
Architect Philippe Chiambaretta, whose PCA-Stream firm drew up the makeover plans, was quoted in The Guardian as saying the Champs-Élysées had become a place that summed up the problems faced by cities around the world – “pollution , the place of the car, tourism and consumerism ”- and had to be redesigned to be“ ecological, desirable and inclusive ”.
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