French Shopping Centers: Future Leisure Centers?

Special Report: Large Public Facilities
By René-Paul Desse

Large concentrations of shops in shopping centers or shopping districts have been developped in urban areas, seemingly in search of economies of size. The spatial coverage of suburban areas is now complete, and each of these centers now aims at differenciating itself from its competitors. The combination of shopping and leisure appears as a way to revive shopping centers or districts that were designed according to the same marketing rules and hence have difficulty elaborating and implementing such a differenciation strategy. “Consumers of surroundings” — all of us — contribute to the decline of traditional urban centers by favouring those more or less “disney-fied” spaces. And the examples of Altlantis (in Nantes), Odysseum (in Montpellier) or Val d’Europe (in Marne la Vallée), among others, show that institutional actors fully understand this process of emergence of new central places: they have these new shopping and leisure centers served by public transport.

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