Be inspired by the boldness of Grenoble for our commercial streets

S’inspirer de l’audace de Grenoble pour nos artères commerciales

Photo: Alain Fischer / City of Grenoble
The commercial centre of the barracks of Good (right), located in Grenoble, is entirely designed in the interests of exemplarity in terms of sustainable development.

By focusing on the piétonnisation a good portion of its downtown, the City of Grenoble hopes to give a second breath to its commercial streets badly in need of love. A year later, the time is on the balance sheet for Eric Piolle, mayor of the city of this metropolis located in the south-east of France. Interview.

The past decades have not been easy for traders, grenoble, france. The image of the artisans of the retail trade in the rest of France, they suffer for years in the harsh repercussions related to the changes in consumption habits. To such a point that the face of the city centre of the French metropolis has changed.

In fact, in nearly 50 years, many of the establishments located in the heart of the city have been forced to close shop. Five grocery stores on six put an end to their activities, two butchers, three have put the key under the door, and half of bakeries and clothing stores have disappeared… A slow decline which is due, in part, by the construction of shopping centres in outskirts and by the rise in popularity of online sales.

This situation is reminiscent of what is observed in some commercial streets in montreal, such as the Sainte-Catherine street, where more than fifty commercial spaces were for rent at the beginning of the year. A bit like its cousins grenobloises, this last fact is, however, a facelift that could, we dare to hope, give a boost to its traders.

S’inspirer de l’audace de Grenoble pour nos artères commerciales

Photo: Jean-Pierre Clatot Agence France-Presse
Eric Piolle, mayor of Grenoble

“For us, the situation was dire, acknowledges Eric Piolle, mayor of the city ecologist of Grenoble, in an interview with The Duty. The status quo was no longer possible. “The politician, who was visiting Montreal last may at the invitation of the organization Live in the city, however, a lot of effort, since his election in 2014, to reverse the steam. “It was necessary to intervene, in one way or another, supports the engineer by training. And in such cases, there are two choices available to us : the logic of the small step or break. It was decided to opt for the second. “

160 000

This is the number of people who live in the city centre of Grenoble.

Source : national Institute of statistics and economic studies

Paradigm shift

Specifically, the mayor and his team have therefore decided, to get there, focus on the users of “soft mobility” that are pedestrians and cyclists. First, by limiting the speed to 30 kilometers an hour on its entire road network, with few exceptions, gradually up an extensive network of bicycle paths express. Still under construction, the latter should, to term, to include four axes rapids that extend in a total of forty kilometers. The purpose of this ? The link, at least in part, from the periphery to the heart of the metropolis.

In the same vein, the town council has also taken the decision, in may 2017, completely close to car traffic to certain areas of the town centre- including the place Grenette square, located in the historic centre of Grenoble. “For years, our cities have been built for cars, to ensure a wide circulation space, laments Eric Piolle. With our plan, “Hearts of the city — hearts of metropolis”, — [that is intended as much the center of Grenoble, the whole of the 49 municipalities in the district], we seek today to reverse this paradigm by thinking of our communities as a place of meeting, first and foremost, the idea being to give back to these users that they had discarded of the public space in their rightful place. “

S’inspirer de l’audace de Grenoble pour nos artères commerciales

Photo: Sylvain Frappat / City of Grenoble
A prototype of a bench under a tree, conceived by architecture students in collaboration with the City. Here, street Barvane, in the heart of the historic district.

“It is a question of experience,” says with conviction politician. By limiting the passage of the cars in those portions of the city, you try to improve the quality of life of other road users, by, for example, increasing their sense of security. Especially, it allows us to explore the different possible uses of these spaces and to make their attendance more enjoyable on a daily basis. “

First results

And ultimately, this kind of measures to pay, provides the one who lives in Grenoble since now a quarter of a century. “The results are not yet tangible, but there is already a modal shift interesting,” he said. Thus, in the course of the year that has just ended, the public transport services have seen an increase in ridership of 7 %, while the trips made in the city centre on foot, in the same period, increased by 3 %. The number of cyclists has, for its part, almost doubled.

Conversely, the entries in the car in the center of the metropolis have decreased by 4 %. Ditto for the outputs of the motor stored in the same sectors, which, for their part, have slipped 3% during the last few months. “With this reduction in road traffic, we hope to impact the quality of air, noise, road safety… The goal is to have a global impact that goes far beyond the simple use of the space,” says Eric Piolle.

From a strictly business point of view, these urban transformations also begin to bear fruit. In fact, the vacancy rate for commercial premises has declined slightly over the last twelve months, from 8.8 % to 8.3 %, according to data collected by the observatory of the project Hearts of a city. Although marginal, this evolution has allowed Grenoble to climb a few places — from the sixth to the fourth in a year — in the ranking of the centres-the most dynamic cities in France.


It is the proportion of commercial premises vacant in the city centre of Grenoble.

Source: Hearts of city – cores of metropolitan Grenoble, france, April 2018

Natural resistance

Such changes do not, however, smooth, admits the mayor, grenoble, france, on the contrary. Thus, since the introduction of the measures piétonnisation, the town hall meeting plenty of resistance, both on the part of motorists unhappy that some traders who are still struggling, a year later, to well understand the approach of the municipal administration. In this sense, some opponents are grouped together under the banner of the collective ” Grenoble to heart “, who wanted the city council to come back on its decisions of the last few months and put an end to the project of piétonnisation.

“These are transformations that require a time of adaptation, and all the results are not visible instantly, recognizes the mayor and ecologist. It is normal for traders to be fearful, as it is important changes, but in the long term, all — even those who do not yet see the positive side of these changes will emerge winners. “

S’inspirer de l’audace de Grenoble pour nos artères commerciales