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Could Paris redevelop its vast subterranean spaces for public use?

The city has roughly 186 miles of tunnels and 32 square miles of subterranean quarries to work with

Louvre museum in Paris
The Louvre at sunset
Sylvain Sonnet/Getty Images

Underneath the City of Light is a mirror city of darkness. The dazzling architecture of Paris conceals a vast network of tunnels plus abandoned quarries that carve out a space ten times the size of Central Park. The first of the city’s mines and underground galleries were excavated in the 1200s, but the popularity of gypsum (used in Plaster of Paris) and the area’s Lutetian limestone (for building such beauties as the Louvre) kept mining efforts active until the mid-1800s. Some of the closed-down quarries were later used to store beer or grow button mushrooms. But today, they’re largely empty and sealed off to the public for safety reasons.

But that may change. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo is now eyeing these miles of unused underground space as the focus for her next Reinventing Paris architecture competition. The best-preserved quarry, called Brewery Quarry, has 20-foot-tall ceilings and a rad rustic vibe ripe for public repurposing. But redeveloping other sections of the underground city won’t be easy.

According to Parisian law, property owners also possess the land beneath their buildings—including any stretch of tunnel that happens to pass through. Explorers brave enough to traverse the city’s tunnels could easily trespass through hundreds of properties along a single tunnel. Along the same lines, a developer hoping to transform that tunnel into, say, a nightclub or manufacturing center would have to negotiate with all the land owners.

Many of the centuries-old tunnels are also structurally unstable and would take millions of dollars to stabilize and make them safe for human use. Do check out the full story here.

Via: The Guardian