La Jeune Rue
In January 2014, a sleek, chic, relatively unknown French businessman surprised the whole of Paris with an unexpected press announcement: he planned to transform three non-descript streets in central Paris into a hip gastronomic and cultural wonderland, and he’d accomplish all of this by January of the following year.
The businessman, Cédric Naudon, had in fact already begun this massive transformation several years earlier by buying up vacant storefronts on the Rue du Vertbois in the 3rd arrondissement. Eventually, he’d acquired dozens and begun discussions with teams of celebrity designers like Tom Dixon and Paola Navone. His idea, simple in theory: open 36 restaurants, specialty food shops, an art gallery, and a cinema on the Rue du Vertbois and 2 streets surrounding it. Each venue would be established on the principles of excellence in quality and French savoir-faire. His street would be called La Jeune Rue, i.e. “young” street (taken from a Guillaume Apollinaire poem).
Reactions to Naudon’s proposal were mixed. Some lauded him for regenerating a forgotten neighborhood that, nestled by neighborhoods increasingly on the up and up, was ripe for redevelopment. For context, in the decades prior to Naudon’s proposal, Rue du Vertbois went from a district dominated by Jewish-owned textile businesses, to, in the 1990s, Chinese clothing wholesalers, and, in the 2000s, nearly empty. It is bordered by the now trendy Haut Marais.
Yet others, particularly locals, worried that, should the project be successful, it would raise property prices in the area and drive out the ethnic diversity the neighborhood currently enjoys, something so rarely found in affluent central Paris.
Whatever the opinion, breaths were baited, and then . . . virtual silence. By spring 2014, Naudon had yet to open the first venue. Its launch date was pushed back several times. By fall 2014, when the project should have been nearing completion, only the 1 venue had launched (the Korean restaurant Ibaji). Investors started to question, and then pull out. The construction site manager sued for non-payment of services, as did the communications firm. French paper Le Monde interviewed a former employee of La Jeune Rue, who reported that workers were systematically paid late or with bounced checks. Doubts arose about Naudon’s past—how did he earn his money, after all, and had it ever actually existed? The cost of the project was never officially disclosed, but some speculate it hovered around 30 million, much of which was to be backed by Naudon himself.
Naudon is adamant that although the project is progressing slower than expected, plans will continue, though it should be noted he had to pull out of a proposed La Jeune Rue Rive Gauche. As of today, it seems only 3 of the 36 venues have opened—the aforementioned Ibaji, Anahi, and OW’Y, an oyster and wine bar, though Naudon has recently opened two restaurants in other areas of the city.
Some call La Jeune Rue a monumental failure, while others still are hopeful that it will eventually succeed and breathe new life into this odd quarter in center of Paris.
Context Travel organizes expert-led walking seminars in Paris and its surroundings. It’s seminar New Parisian Palate explores the changing culinary personality of the neighboring Haut Marais.
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