Aéroville takes off
After 8 years of planning and construction work for its latest creation, French commercial developer Unibail-Rodamco's shopping center Aéroville is now in flight. Located in the immediate vicinity of the Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport outside of Pairs, this 200-store, 84,000 square-meter shopping center aims to entice through its enormous size as well as offering brands rarely seen in France, all of which have been encouraged to think big in their window displays.
As FashionMag.com previously reported, this project especially marks a makeover of Unibail-Rodamco's policies. Aéroville is essentially pushing its brands to boost their profile with large store windows and new concepts. Only a year and a half earlier, the developer was encouraging its brands to blend in with the architecture of Lyon Confluence. Ultimately, the result is what might qualify as the first Anglo-Saxon type "mall" in France.
"This center is difficult to describe," says Christophe Cuvillier, CEO of Unibail-Rodamco. "When you visit the center, you still understand what we wanted to do here: the most spectacular center in continental Europe. It is paving the way for a new generation of shopping centers through its exceptional size that enables it to incorporate the best of our most recent projects."
Unibail-Rodamco is not disclosing the revenues forecasted for the mall. However, the developer intends to bring in 12 million visitors a year, with an average spend on par with the mid-ranges of its other properties, or 45 euros. But in its 355 million investment, the developer knew it could eventually rely on Sunday opening times, now permitted for businesses located in the airport zone.
Contrary to appearances, Aéroville's strategy is not to attract travelers in transit. In fact, the center has its sights set on three other local populations. First and foremost, the inhabitants of the area. The mall is located in a catchment area of 1.8 million people living less than 30 minutes away. The group is also aiming for residents to the north of Paris, where shopping is limited.
Then there are 120,000 active employees working in the airport zone, often with untypical work schedules. The final group is business travelers staying in the hotels around the airport (a shuttle service has been set up) and attendees to trade shows at the exhibition grounds in Villepinte (marketing communications will be distributed during events).
Aéroville is the second shopping center in France to receive the BREEAM Excellent certification. The first was So Ouest, which Unibail-Rodamco opened last year in Levallois-Perret. It is also the first center to use geothermal energy, which will enable high energy savings on heating and air conditioning.
In terms of service, the center carries Unibail-Rodamco's 4-star designation. Services include Personal Shopper, a car wash, parking assistance, a luggage and package concierge, valet service and shoe shine. All service staff wear flight attendant uniforms, maintaining the theme of air travel set by the planes taking off and landing and viewable from the mall's observation bay windows.
The mayors of the towns of Tremblay and Roissy-en-France are using the opening of the center as an opportunity to gripe. While very satisfied with the cooperative attitude of Unibail-Rodamco during the development of the project, they are making an issue of the increased traffic in the area. “It is important to understand that 80% of people working in this area come by car, versus 20% with public transportation," said Francois Asensi, deputy mayor of Tremblay-en-France. "Just to give you an idea, this is the exact opposite of La Défense. 60 Mayors of the association of nearby communities want a new RER commuter station between the exhibition center and the airport. But despite the support of the government, the region is blocking the project."
André Toulouse, mayor of Roissy-en-France, hopes that the success of Aéroville and the upcoming move of the headquarters of Aéroports de Paris will build a consensus for a new train service. Augustin de Romanet, CEO of Aéroports de Paris, thinks such a development is likely. He sees Aéroville to be laying the groundwork for a true airport urban center that will come to define business activity for the Charles de Gaulle area.
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