Annemasse has never stood out from an architectural standpoint and is often looked upon by Genevans' as a dormitory city for cross-border workers, as well as a place to shop. When you reach the Gaillard-Annemasse border, as with other border towns, buildings and shops are haphazardly scattered, lacking any defined planning or design. And today, with the massive construction site for the new Geneva–Annemasse tram, the situation has inevitably worsened.
However, as the overall landscape of this region - often referred to as the “Grand Genève” - unfolds and the new tram and “Léman Express” train will link Geneva to the Haute-Savoie department of France, almost blurring the border and bringing Annemasse even closer to the international city of Geneva, the dynamics of Annemasse are changing. The greater urban area surrounding the French town of almost 100,000 residents will undoubtedly begin to play a more pivotal role in the new economic, demographic and political vision of the region.
Annemasse is one of the few mid-sized towns in France witnessing a growth in commercial real estate, and there is a concerted effort to make the town center more dynamic and welcoming. One project which fits this objective well is Chablais Parc, developed by the Virgil real estate group. Construction began in 2010, with a first phase completed in 2013. With a total surface of 50,000 sq.m. and a budget of some 200 million euros, this urban development should be completed in 2019.
Chablais-Parc comes as a pleasant surprise. Its modern architectural style, using a mix of materials including wood, glass and concrete, offers an interesting structural harmony. The area stands out from its surroundings but, surprisingly, still blends in. Its pedestrian square (Place Antoine Lumière) is a bustling enclave in the middle of the town, bringing together a mix of people. Naming the streets after famous actors (Simone Signoret, François Truffaut, Luchino Visconti, Annie Girardot) also sets the tone for the district.
To date, Chablais parc includes 400 energy-efficient apartments (1/3 subsidized, 2/3 free rent or for sale); 45 shops/restaurants/cafés; a public parking lot, a nursery, and even a 70-room hotel. Both local and international retail brands (including H&M and Mango) have been attracted to invest here as they foresee positive economic growth in the region.
The final phase of the project will include the “Skyline” residential building, a movie theater, additional shops and restaurants. Skyline, a 9-story high-end, state of the art, residential building with 38 units including a 654,000 euros triplex, will definitely stand out from other residential buildings in Annemasse. As for the much-awaited 7 million euros, 990 seat, Multiplex movie theater, it will also be an added attraction for the town.
Chablais parc is not only revamping the architecture of the town, it is also invigorating its social and economic fabric by drawing people to the area both by day and night. As the border slowly fades away and public transportation flows through, the day will come when Genevans wanting a night out, will choose Annemasse as their destination.