Matching townships


Revealing Disney’s real magic kingdom
US media giant Disney isn’t renowned for pioneering real estate development, but in fact this is The principle is for Disney to buy all With more than 12,000 staff, Disney
at the heart of its theme park strategy in Paris. With 1,000 hectares already developed and US$4 of this land,” adds Giral.
The Marne-la-Vallée project was the
is the biggest employer in eastern
Paris. Celebrating its 15th anniversary
billion invested in the land, it has far from a Mickey Mouse involvement, says Christian Sylt. first public-private partnership in the this year, Disneyland Paris is now
history of French national and regional ■ About the new town: together to form a town council. The Europe’s most visited theme park with
Anyone driving about 30 kilometres to the 1960s to temper haphazard growth parks to the surrounding hotels and with a catch. Dusting off its plans development and given that Disney is • Val d’Europe (meaning Valley of five districts are: Chessy; Bailly- 12.8 million guests tripping through its
the east of Paris is in for a bit of a which had become common in many even the roads and nature reserves. for developing Marne-la-Vallée, the almost as American as apple pie, Europe) is a part of the new town Romainvilliers; Coupvray; Magny- turnstiles every year – 40 per cent of
surprise. There’s the traditional French French towns. This strategy stems from when Walt government agreed to sell the land to the first priority was to reassure known as Marne la Vallée. le-Hongre and Serris. which are French. Occupancy in its
villages of Serris, Coupvray and The entire new town area of Marne- Disney bought land for his original Disney provided that the majority of it locals that the area wouldn’t be • It is located 35km to the east of • Val d’Europe is easily accessible 6,000 onsite hotel rooms hit 83 per
Chessy with their local cafe’s, la-Vallée, where Disneyland Paris now Disneyland park in California in the was developed in accordance with its Americanised or Disneyfied. An ideal Paris, near Disneyland Paris. from Paris. The Val d’Europe stop is cent last year, far exceeding the 2006
bouleodromes and boulangeries. There stands today, was earmarked for 1950s and no sooner had it opened, own vision. “The French government solution was reached. • Val d’Europe was built in just one station before the Marne-la- average of 76.7 per cent for Parisian
are the beet fields. development with the five historic motels and restaurants began springing told Disney you are a terrific anchor in An association, known as the SAN conjunction with the Walt Disney Vallée Chessy RER and TGV station hotels according to TRI Hospitality.
Then comes a new city centre with villages already sitting on the land set up on the land next to it and spoiling terms of tourism, but we would also (Syndicat d’Agglomération Nouvelle), Company, who wished to create a situated inside Disneyland Paris. But despite its popularity, the parks
sparkling housing built in a classic to be interlinked into it. These plans the fantasy theming of the resort. like you to be a new anchor in terms of of the five ancient villages was set town near Disneyland. • As of 2005, Val d’Europe had a are struggling to turn a profit. Their
19th century style, a high-tech were frozen following the first oil “Disney wanted to make sure its economy in order to develop the up and operates with Disney and • The town is made up of five population of 19,700 people, but this parent company, Euro Disney, still has
business park and shopping village crisis, but they weren’t forgotten. environment would be consistent with eastern part of Paris,” says Giral. the French new town agency communities, which have grouped is expected to increase to 40,000. US$2.5 billion of debt on its books
designed like a sprawling marketplace. When Disney began negotiations in our core business,” explains Christophe To ensure that land development Epafrance/Epamarne. from funding the colossal construction
In comparison, the spires of the 1980s with the French government Giral, Val d’Europe’s senior manager. benefits the local area and isn’t rushed Residents soon understood that the costs of the parks and its US$4 billion
Cinderella’s Castle at the nearby about building a theme park in Paris it “For example, if a polluting company through, the government only sells common interest of all the project’s contributor to this which also works in infrastructure for the growth of Marne- contribution to the Marne-la-Vallée’s
Disneyland Paris are less unexpected had one crucial criterion – that the land were to settle next to the theme parks it land to Disney in stages once previous players was the optimum development everyone’s interest. la-Vallée, but also Disney’s core resort. development. Its direct financial return
and at first sight one would never think it acquired would far outstrip the space would be a disaster because we can’t plots have been completed. of the local area. Harmony with local An initial US$525 million state After initial rejection by the from the new town is minimal.
the two developments were connected. on which its park would sit. move the parks.” “We begin this street and we finish inhabitants makes the area more investment in transport was in place French, with critics comparing it to a Disney’s business model for Marne-
But indeed they are. The city centre is Disney needed more land so that it Disney requested a vast plot of land the street before beginning the next,” desirable which is in Disney’s interests before anyone moved in and was ‘cultural Chernobyl’, Disney’s two la-Vallée is simple – it buys land from
known as Val d’Europe and, although could then maintain standards almost one fifth the size of Paris and says Giral. This also relieves pressure and those of the new town agency. recouped within three years through theme parks have since been the government and sells it to
Disney is behind it, its history stretches throughout the entire resort from the got what it wanted. However, it came on Disney and it has a wide window to Communal services, such as parks taxes. This provided not only the embraced by the country. developers who fund its development
back 35 years before the ornate gates develop the land since its 1987 and transport, are managed by the after Disney has signed off the design.
first opened to its Paris theme park ‘The French government has frozen 2,000 masterplan with the government is due SAN, which also finances schools, After initial rejection by the French, with “We make a profit which is a very
in 1992. At the instigation of
Charles de Gaulle, new towns were
hectares dedicated for Disney. The principle is to be complete within 30 years.
“The French government has frozen
sports centres and other public
facilities through taxes on onsite hotels
critics comparing it to a ‘cultural Chernobyl’, minor one. For the last fiscal year, the
real estate department represented 2.6
commissioned in France at the end of for Disney to buy all of this land’ 2,000 hectares dedicated for Disney. and businesses. Disney is the largest Disney’s two theme parks have been embraced per cent of the turnover,” says Giral

48 Destinations of the World News, April 2007 Destinations of the World News, April 2007 49
Matching townships Insight

After a slow start during its opening in 1992, Disneyland Paris has become one of Europe’s most popular tourist attractions

adding, “it’s not a financial dimension, level. The pavements are noticeably districts. Giral adds that “one quarter it look more like a hotel. The town is others, only 39 per cent of employees square metre, more than 400
this is a strategic dimension”. wider than in typical towns and Giral of the land has to be set aside for also incredibly secure since Disney has and 37 per cent of visitors intend one companies have moved to Val
It has served its purpose. explains that this is to accommodate nature reserve”, which means that, on its own security force. Surprisingly day to move to Val d’Europe. The town d’Europe and many are clustered in the
The original five historic villages mothers with prams. He adds: “For completion, residents will benefit from this doesn’t come at a great cost. may be almost too clean-cut for some Arlington centre. Of course this is no
only had 4,000 residents combined but • The education facilities at Marne-la- • A total of 40 shuttles per day connect each building you see, the first 115 hectares of green space including “Marne-la-Vallée’s five villages are with some buildings seeming like a ordinary business park and looks more
Marne-la-Vallée’s total now stands at Vallée include a university campus, Val d’Europe to Roissy and Orly question asked by the management is, 28 landscaped water features. among the richest towns by inhabitants theme park version of Paris than a real like a Californian university campus
20,000. Of these, just 10 per cent are four middle schools, 12 nursery international airports. ‘what value does this project bring in Disney is also building a carbon in France,” Giral said. French town. It is also still very young, than an industrial zone.
Disney employees and growth has schools and an international high • It takes eight minutes to get to terms of quality of life?’” neutral sustainable nature resort in This is down to three reasons. First, but Giral isn’t concerned. “Our new Disney chose to sell to Arlington,
been dramatic. Val d’Europe itself only school with teaching entirely in Roissy airport by TGV from Marne- To ease the transition between the partnership with holiday park operator the level of rent, which averages challenge is turning the area into an which has other parks in Shanghai and
began operation in 2002 and housing foreign languages. la-Vallée/Chessy station; it takes 30 city and residential areas, cross-breed Pierre&Vacances to open in 2010. US$4,300 per square metre, is one economic hub,” he said. Barcelona, because of its focus on
supply is increasing at a rate of 500 • The town’s main shopping centre minutes to get to central Paris by RER neighbourhoods were created – made However, the leisure offerings for third the cost of downtown Paris. Disney paid US$53 million for the landscaping and client focal points
new units every year. includes more than 140 shops, 15 from Val d’Europe. up of lower buildings and small houses. residents are already world-class. Second, since it is a new town, there local TGV station which will become including restaurants, fitness rooms,
Disney projects that the entire area restaurants, a giant aquarium. • In 2020, Val d’Europe will be able to Familiarity is increased even more In addition to the theme parks, is a tax benefit and finally, Disney has the largest hub in France this year dry cleaning and child care facilities.
will have 40,000 inhabitants by 2020 • 68 trains pass through the Marne-la- provide nearly a million square metres through the structures themselves. Marne-la-Vallée residents have sailing, paid a whopping US$1.1 billion of tax serving 108 destinations with more Perhaps most impressive is that the
and it has only developed around half Vallée/Chessy station every day. of office space in the city centre. Buildings have three distinct parts cycling, tennis, fishing and 10-pin into the local area from which than 40 per cent being international. Arlington was only opened in late 2004
of its 2,000 hectare allocation. which, from roof downwards, are bowling facilities onsite as well as a residents have benefited. Charles de Gaulle airport is just and it is already 70 per cent full. In total,
Disney itself doesn’t design the known as top, façade and podium and 27-hole golf course, 15-screen cinema Nevertheless, rents have still eight minutes away by TGV and is Val d’Europe has 65,000 square metres
buildings, instead that was left to The wizards who invent Disney’s so that they stand the test of time. these are used to create a likeness and discount retail park with shops set increased three-fold from the project’s served by 40 shuttles every day of office space, but by 2020 this is
American design bureau Cooper ingeniously immersive theme park And to relieve the gloom that settles for all property in a particular into small cottage-style buildings. inception which has brought a broad from Marne-la-Vallée. Orly, Paris’ projected to rise to a massive
Robertson. Foreign consultants also attractions have come up with equally on the area in winter, homes are neighbourhood. For example, all Even this was deliberate, Giral grin to property-owners’ faces. second airport, is served by 960,000sqm – 300,000sqm in the centre
had a hand to give the town European impressive planning concepts which painted in light colours. podiums in the main square, Place explains. Since the goods sold are last In 2003 Atoo consultancy surveyed another 30. These links have attracted and 660,000sqm in the Arlington.
flair with the central café conceived by explain Marne-la-Vallée’s burgeoning Giral adds: “We have 20 per cent d’Ariane are freestone, but no two year’s lines, the operators know which 400 residents, employees, visitors and big businesses. Whether the projections are met
Belgian Léon Krier, who is known for popularity. It seems that everything, of social housing, but you won’t are identical. And to limit parking are bestsellers and the flexible students. The results revealed that 93 BNP Paribas and KPMG have their remains to be seen, but Giral is already
his services as architectural advisor to no matter how minute, has been recognise it. We are working each problems and increase light at street structure allows for shops to extend per cent were satisfied with their living regional headquarters there, as does confident about overcoming his
the Prince of Wales, and the new oval- thought through. project as if it would be the project and level, the largest buildings are no taller their floorspace accordingly. environment with the same percentage Société Générale whose HR manager challenge. “The hardest part is
shaped square, Place de Toscane, by The most immediately apparent that definitely makes a difference.” than five storeys, even in the zones of Many of the other Marne-la-Vallée most appreciating the safety, Laurent Platel explains: “For the definitely behind us,” he says.
the Italian Pier Carlo Bontempi. decision is the use of 19th century- This comes across as the high highest population density. Dimensions facilities would normally be found in cleanliness and public facilities. same price it would be difficult to find It’s hard to imagine that just 15
However, Giral stresses that “we style architecture. Giral explains that standards are seamless from the streets of squares have also been kept modest cities, such as a university campus, four However, although 95 per cent of better elsewhere.” years ago Disneyland Paris was failing
have people on our team to check that this was chosen over modern designs and even more thought went in at this so passers-by don’t feel lost. middle schools, 12 nursery schools and them would recommend a visit to With rents of only US$315 per to even get its countrymen through its
the architecture, the materials used by Integration between new and an international high school with gates when now, not only are they
the developer and the final product are For each building you see, the first question existing residents is a key concern – so teaching entirely in foreign languages. Disney is also building a carbon neutral doing that but they are also living and
really suitable to the vision”.
It takes a sprinkling of Disney’s
asked by the management is ‘what value does shopping areas and parks have been
created between the old villages,
And in 2010 it is getting a next-
generation hospital with soaring
sustainable nature resort in partnership with working onsite. At this rate, Disney
may not need to use any more of its
pixie dust to achieve the results. this project bring in terms of quality of life?’ business parks and new residential atriums and huge bay windows making holiday park operator Pierre&Vacances magic to achieve its aims.

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