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News, Tips & Bargains : A Face Lift for Champs-Elysees

October 02, 1994|SCOTT KRAFT

PARIS — The Champs-Elysees was once the most celebrated avenue in Paris, the artery where victorious armies marched and high society shopped and dined. In recent years, though, the avenue changed, collecting fast-food restaurants, movie theaters, car showrooms and petty criminals.

Now the city has given a 2 1/2-year, $45-million face lift to the leafy 1.1-mile avenue, which stretches from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. The make-over was unveiled last week, with Mayor Jacques Chirac throwing the switch on 1,000 emerald green floodlights.

Chirac proudly claimed that the Champs-Elysees "has recovered all its prestige (and) the magical character which it had in the subconscious of the French and of foreigners."

That verdict, ultimately, will be rendered by the rest of France and the world. But the street has, without doubt, undergone quite a transformation, with more than 227 new trees, 51 benches of tropical wood (costing more than $4,000 each), new bus shelters, and newspaper kiosks and street lamps designed in turn-of-the-century style.

The biggest plus for the millions of French and tourists who clog the avenue every day are the new wide granite sidewalks. The narrow streets on either side of the avenue, where hapless motorists once hunted for parking spaces, are gone. Now, the sidewalks are 65 feet wide and parking can be found in a new lot built underground.

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