What international luxury means for Paris

236px-La_Samaritaine_Signage

The world’s leading purveyor of luxury goods is butting heads with Parisians over the transformation of La Samaritaine, an iconic Art Nouveau department store, into an opulent hotel.

One side hopes to preserve a popular shopping institution (now closed) for Parisians, while the other plans to cash-in on the swarms of ultra-wealthy tourists who flock to a romanticized and largely imagined Paris.

Luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault’s upmarket monolith L.V.M.H. — Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy – has been fighting preservationists for years and is now waiting for a ruling for the Cour d’Appel to move forward with conversion of La Samaritaine.

“The world has changed,” Marie-Line Antonios, the directrice générale of the La Samaritaine project told the New Yorker. “The problem with grands magasins is the cost of property and personnel, the cost of human resources. The only way to afford those is to make a luxury store. The classic discount stores, the ‘good buy’ stores—they don’t exist anymore. They can’t.”

But those against the project say that L.V.M.H. is missing the point. “La Samaritaine is a choice for the hyper-luxe in a hyper-central neighborhood, decorated with a gesture of architecture,” Alexandre Gady, president of the Société pour la Protection des Paysages et de l’Esthétique de la France, the project’s principal opponent. “It’s a quartier entirely protected by law—I didn’t make it so; the state did—entirely protected, architecturally finished, with no space and strict rules. And if you or I asked to do what L.V.M.H. wants to, we’d be told, ‘Sorry, sir, it’s forbidden.’” [New Yorker] Christopher Cameron

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