The recently inaugurated CEVA railway system is certainly having a strong impact on dynamically transforming various neighborhoods in Geneva. Chêne-Bourg is becoming an important new multi-transport hub with its new railway station, new tramway and the “voie verte” - the eco-friendly green belt cyclist and pedestrian path from Eaux-Vives to Annemasse – offering commuters several solutions to effortlessly and rapidly reach their chosen destination. In parallel, we are witnessing the growth of a vibrant new urban area around the station, resulting in unprecedented changes to the landscape and some disruption to the social dynamics of this popular district.
The most outstanding example of this transformation is the 19 storey, CHF83 million, Tour Opale project – a joint venture between the Canton of Geneva and the Swiss Federal Railways (CFF/SBB), and designed by the Parisian architectural practice Lacaton & Vassal.
This is the first high-rise building in Chêne-Bourg, and one of the few in Geneva. When the building suddenly comes in sight, towering majestically over the neighborhood, it takes you by complete surprise. Although Tour Opale's mixed use format already exists in other cities worldwide, it is a first for Geneva. The building consists of three sections – retail, office space and apartments and will thus afford a measure of self-sufficiency to residents as well as to those in the soon to be developed surrounding buildings. At Opale you will be able to enjoy a quality cup of coffee at BEAN2ME's “CoffeeAvenue” coffee bar; get fit at NONSTOP GYM; get advice on micronutrition at EFFICIUM, resolve sleeping disorders at CENAS and consult the Groupe MAGELLAN's medical centre for health issues.
The 19 story Tour Opale building has a state-of-the-art recessed glazed facade, allowing it to blend in harmoniously with the skyline. It comprises ground floor retail premises, 5 floors of office space and 14 floors with 101 high-quality, spacious and bright two to five room residential apartments, with winter gardens, large balconies and spectacular views.
From its inception the project has been controversial, as many question the necessity of such a building in the area and are unhappy with the prospect of having what they consider to be an ugly high-rise building towering over the area and ruining the familiar landscape. Many were also disappointed to see Chêne-Bourg's quaint obsolete railway station replaced by the stark geometric CEVA station. On the other hand, the project has been embraced by many as an opportunity and one which will have a positive impact on the local economy. In no time, all the commercial space and the majority of the apartments were rented, and future tenants are excited to move in.
Tour Opale was meant to open in May 2020, however, owing to the pandemic, construction came to a halt in March. As the situation progressively moves towards some form of normality, it is hoped that construction may be finalized soon and that the building can subsequently be inaugurated. Once both commercial and residential tenants move in, the Commune of Chêne-Bourg will finally experience the full extent of the new face of this revamped neighborhood, and the success of Tour Opale will be a test to determine whether similar concepts should see the day in other high density areas and transportation corridors in the city.