In a few words
Avenue Denfert-Rochereau in Paris. The Saint-Vincent de Paul Hospital closes its doors and the city takes over the site to develop new housing; before work begins, there is a latency period of several years. So, a thought emerges: “how can a four-hectare, temporarily available site in the heart of Paris be used boldly and generously?” It is exactly this question on which the project Les Grands Voisins was built. The empty premises of the former hospital were first used to host the homeless, who were later joined by craftsmen, associations and young organizations who came to set up their workshops and offices within its walls. We then opened the site to the public, offering family and sports facilities, a campsite, restaurant services, a conference room, cultural activities and artistic programming. The project quickly became a destination, a lively spot where social, productive, commercial and cultural activities cohabited with exciting intensity. When the future developers arrived on-site, they too were impressed and proposed that the project be extended as long as possible, continuing to operate in parallel with the new construction work. They could see how the social vitality produced by Les Grands Voisins contributed directly to their urban development mission.
The project Les Grands Voisins marked a turning point in the history of the association. The size of the site allowed us to express the full range of our expertise, the team expanded, we set up the central bar La Lingerie to finance our work and activities, we began to pay ourselves salaries, we discovered social work and built a relationship of trust with our partners Aurore and Plateau Urbain.
2015 — 2020
Owners of the site
Paris & Métropole Aménagement, City of Paris (formerly Assistance Publique des Hôpitaux de Paris, then Etablissement Public Foncier d’Île-de-France)
60 hours per week open to the public
Four million euros per year for the joint operational budget
20,000 m² of building space and 15,000 m² of outdoor space, 250 organizations installed on the premises, 600 shelter beds, 4,000 visitors per day
10,000 m² of building space and 3,500 m² of outdoor space, 140 organizations, 100 shelter beds, 1 daily reception for asylum seekers, 4,000 visitors per day.
Site management, emergency accommodation, day care for asylum seekers, integration through employment.
Choice and management of occupants of the premises and animation of their network, technical coordination.
Paris & Métropole Aménagement
Developer of the city of Paris, owner of the site.
Points to remember
- The societal utility produced from the possibility of temporarily occupying decommissioned spaces in dense city centres free of charge: emergency shelters, social work, low-cost work spaces, etc.
- The development of ways and means for citizen involvement at the neighbourhood level.
- The building of a cultural destination with a multitude of artistic experiences, open and accessible to the greatest number of people.
- The inspiring demonstration of a temporary format as proven through experience.
- The richness and responsiveness of an economic model led jointly by three organizations from different professional fields.
- The resilience of the model and its adaptability to contemporary changes and crises.