Retail trade and areas of multi-family housing. The birth of commercial urban planning in France 1958–1973

By René-Paul Desse

Facing unprecedented urban growth in the 1950s and 1960s, public authorities were able to quickly build new areas of multi-family housing on a large scale in a very centralized manner. The end of the 1950s was marked by the creation of areas targeted for priority urbanisation (ZUP). While the last ZUP was launched in 1969, in 1973 the Guichard report limited “multi-family houssine” construction” to 2,000 dwellings. The first collective housing neighborhoods did not include any commercial developments. In 1961, the Sudreau-Fontanet report imposed a minimum allowed coverage for commercial areas, in the form of a grid arrangement of small shopping centres. This paper analyses these first commercial urban planning developments in France, and uses two case studies on consumer behaviour from 1965 and 1970 to explore their low attractiveness. It investigates, from early efforts in urban planning, how urban policies contributed to the early decline of new urbanized zones for commercial activities.


  • trade urban planning
  • areas of multi-family housing
  • supermarket
  • hypermarket
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