French luxury group LVMH has experienced a major setback: a court of appeal has confirmed La Samaritaine's building permit be revoked. Louis Vuitton's parent company will appeal the decision, but the current decision means a huge delay.
A 460 million euro investment
La Samaritaine had always been likened to luxurious shopping palaces like Galeries Lafayette and Le Printemps, but its appeal has floundered since the 1990s. In November 2000, LVMH paid 230 million euro to acquire 51 % of the mythical department store, but had to shut down the luxury temple five years later because of safety hazards. Not unlogical, as there had not been any improvements to the famous Art Deco building since the start of the previous century.
LVMH then decided to thoroughly remodel the store, a process which would take 5 to 6 years. Aside from a luxury 26,000 sqm shopping mall, it wanted to add a luxury hotel (from the LVMH-owned Cheval Blanc chain) and 20,000 sqm of office space. At the request of the city council, it also added some social housing for 100 houses and a nursery.
The total project, 70,000 sqm stretching from the Seine to the Rue de Rivoli (which leads to the Louvre), would create 2,100 jobs and cost some 460 million euro.
Glass "shower curtain" facade
The plans quickly drew criticism as people protested against the demolition of six buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th century. Afterwards, the protest turned towards the intended Rue de Rivoli facade: in 2012, the Parisian city council 'hesitantly' approved the wavy glass facade created by the prestigious Japanese architect firm Sanaa.
Adversaries immediately went to court to stop the construction of this "shower curtain", as they scornfully call it. They feel it does not fit the typical Haussmann style, dating back to the 18th and 19th century, found in that particular area of Paris. A judge agreed with them in May and a court of appeal has now confirmed the ruling.
LVHM is "dumbfounded" by the ruling and will, alongside city council, appeal it. The reason the city council (and the French Ministery of Culture and the architects in the 'Bâtiments de France' organization) is on board, is because it has backed the project, after long discussions and the necessary changes. That is what the luxury group has emphasized in its reaction and it does not seem willing to alter its plans at all.