Our observations of the Les Halles area focused on district boundaries or, more specifically, the entrances and exits used by pedestrians to get to and from this construction zone. Currently, pedestrians have rather limited path choice; they are directed in a path around the Les Halles Commercial Center determined by the green and yellow construction barriers outside the redevelopment project. Accessibility to the metro and RER is also quite limited by the construction barriers. We chose to focus on the present barrier between the ongoing construction zone and the rest of the city, to analyze potential detrimental effects of such close proximity of these barriers on the local commerce, such as the restaurants. Through interviewing several restaurant owners with shops very close to the construction border, we were able to initially ascertain a sense of how harmful the construction has been for their sales.
In an effort to mitigate some of the loss for surrounding businesses, the Les Halles redevelopment project reimburses the businesses that are not part of the commercial center within the boundary shown below for their losses at the end of the year compared to their usual and projected level of sales from before the construction began. Despite this, many store owners are still unhappy about the toll that the construction zone has taken on their number of customers.
We decided to measure the toll of the construction border on sales, within the reimbursement zone, through measuring observable barrier that prevented potential customers from entering the stores. Some of these barriers that we tested for included physical barriers, meaning that the customers are physically blocked from entering the store because the construction zone extends so close to it, as well as a non-physical noise barrier, meaning the customers are prevented from entering a store or restaurant due to high levels of noise associated with construction that is present, and view barriers, meaning that customers are deterred from entering a business due to the sight of the construction. After all, who would really enjoy sitting outside at a cafe terrace if all they had to look at was a massive construction project?
Within our zone of interest, to determine the number of businesses at this time impacted by the physical construction borders, we counted the shops with physical barriers separating them from the main pedestrian walkway. We actually only determined very few shops with barriers separating their entrances from the main pedestrian walkway. Only along Rue Pierre Lescot and Rue Rambuteau did we see shops that were affected by this type of barrier. On Pierre Lescot, four businesses that were on this street had physical barriers preventing customers from entering the store. On Rue Rambuteau, we observed that two shops had physical barriers. Potential customers still had means to go inside these shops; however, these barriers would only leave gaps around a meter width to allow people to enter, thus serving a deterrent for many potential customers as not only did they limit and disrupt the visibility of the storefronts, but they also confused potential customers as to whether they were allowed to enter these establishments.
As far as the noise barriers are concerned, all the businesses within one block of the Les Halles Commercial Center border experienced some sort of noise barrier due to all the construction work within the zone (especially from trucks and machinery). However, one block or more away from the construction zone, we noticed that the noise disruption from the construction was no longer present, or determinable, and thus not a present barrier to deter people from entering businesses in this area.
Unfortunately, we also observed there to be a view barrier for businesses located right next to the construction border, which disappeared as the construction became out of sight for stores (not present for businesses not facing the construction site). This view barrier was decidedly worse for those businesses where the construction site was most exposed, which was at the intersection of Pierre Lescot and Rue Rambuteau.
Despite these current barriers, Les Halles is an area with a great commercial use and even greater potential, which can only be improved by some organizational and cosmetic changes. While measuring physical barriers to shops, we noticed another issue caused by the resultant limited visibility of construction borders; pedestrians face an added safety issue with areas in which the main walkway also permits cars to drive through. Thus, greater visibility for shops and in areas that cars also pass is a concern not only for the surrounding businesses in this zone but also for pedestrians. We thus propose changes to the physical green and yellow barriers surrounding the construction work of Les Halles. Barriers placed between storefronts and the main pedestrian walkways as well as barriers in areas where cars may pass should be made transparent. This should help improve commerce as well as safety along the borders of Les Halles.