A plan by the French government to beautify and improve ugly spaces sparked debate.
A Redditor started the conversation by sharing four renderings from a proposal to transform commercial areas, which was presented by minister of commerce Olivia Grégoire and minister of ecological transition Christophe Béchu.
The images were published in Le Figaro, France’s oldest newspaper, in an article headlined “What could the commercial zones of ‘ugly France’ look like in the future?”
“These areas on the outskirts of cities often have the same appearance: main roads lined with advertising billboards, stores shaped like ‘shoe boxes’ surrounded by huge parking lots,” Julien Da Sois wrote. “For the executive, this model is ‘obsolete,’ both environmentally, economically and urbanistically.”
Much of the idea revolves around parking lots: shrinking them, replacing them, or covering them with photovoltaic panels. Other project pros include more vegetation, new housing, and businesses of multiple stories that take up less surface area.
Le Figaro noted the undertaking would span several decades.
Some Redditors were thrilled, while others pointed out pitfalls, including a lack of non-car transportation, the difficulty in fixing car-centric commercial areas, and a fear that the mockups were impractical.
A countrywide initiative would be astounding, but smaller renovations have been successful all over the world. Another post in the r/f***cars thread showed the second life of a parking lot in Bydgoszcz, Poland, which became a thriving community space.
On TikTok, a user shared the makeover of an Edmonton, Alberta, lot that now features a bakery and gathering area.
To make these changes happen, cities and towns need reliable public transportation, which could be another massive endeavor. But greenspace transformations are worth it, with benefits including stress reduction, cognitive restoration, higher levels of physical activity, enhanced social interactions, and decreased exposure to air and noise pollution, according to an April study published in Environmental Science and Health.
“Is the idea to put a park and dense apartment complex in between an Ikea and large dealership?” one commenter asked. “What’s the point?”
Another said: “Man, ‘Ugly France’ looks a hell of a lot like ‘Just America’. Can we do ours next?”
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