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The Governance of Office Tower Projects in a European Second City: The Case of Lyon

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Towers have been making a comeback in European cities since the end of the 1990s and the French city of Lyon is no exception. After building a seminal office tower in the business district of La Part-Dieu in the 1970s, it has taken a long time for France's second largest metropolitan area to see the construction of a cluster of tall buildings. Recently, as part of the regeneration of La Part-Dieu, towers have re-emerged to accompany economic and political metropolization processes. The aim of the municipality is to design a new skyline, symbolizing the economic dynamism of the city, attract investors and anchor Lyon in the urban competition between European cities. But this policy also reveals the difficulties facing European 'second cities' in building an office market buoyant enough for towers. Marked by successive failures, the return of office towers in Lyon is now backed by the strong political involvement needed to secure projects and implement exceptional governance procedures. This paper deals with the political and economic mechanisms that led to building the skyline of a European 'second city' from a historical perspective. The temporalities of high-rise office developments underline changing actors, the strategies and the governance deployed to build towers, and the lasting will to forge a vertical city. First, we analyse the context in which the first tower was built in the 1960s-1970s and the territorial transformations caused by this development. Secondly, we study the failures of the projects initiated in the 1980s and the 1990s in order to explain the economic and political difficulties that Lyon is facing in its quest for new tower projects. Finally, we analyse the governance implemented for the Oxygen and Incity Towers, built during the last decade, to show how governments have mobilized actors and instruments to achieve their ambitions. These actors and instruments are linked to highly confidential and institutional arrangements for vertical commercial developments in Lyon.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2018

More about this publication?
  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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