Heritage News France

Eiffel Tower is the key to Paris mayor’s high hopes

The newly elected Anne Hidalgo wants to promote tourism to the city with a revamp of its top landmark

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has a sweet spot for the Eiffel Tower

Anne Hidalgo, Paris’s new Socialist mayor, was the faithful deputy of the outgoing Bertrand Delanoë for 13 years, but her post-election programme makes bold new claims for the capital’s cultural agenda, including a revamp of its most famous monument, the Eiffel Tower.

In her campaign for a “Paris qui ose” (a “Paris that dares”), Hidalgo listed the Eiffel Tower as the key to promoting tourism in the capital. Of the almost 7 million visitors the tower receives a year, 75% are foreigners.

The 324m-high iron structure turned 125 years old with little fanfare on Monday, 31 March, the day after Hidalgo’s victory in the polls. The French newspaper Le Monde linked the lack of a public celebration to the long-delayed construction work on the tower.

Two or three of its historic lifts are currently out of use, limiting the flow of visitors, who can queue for up to four hours on busy days, Le Monde reports. The renovation of the lift in the west pillar began in October 2008 with an estimated two-year duration. As the work has dragged on—it is now due to be completed in May—the operating company, Sete (la Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel), has estimated the cost to have racked up to €36m, three times over the original budget.

Sete was created in 2005 and contracted by the city council, which holds a 59.9% share in the company, to maintain and run the Eiffel Tower for ten years. Its website states that the aim is “primarily to modernise its facilities, reception areas and the services offered to visitors”. Its mandate over the monument, including the lifts, all its facilities and the quandrangle of land beneath it, runs until December 2015. An exit clause was added to the agreement last year: if the company is unable to meet its modernisation targets, it will owe the city €16m.

Meanwhile, Hidalgo promises a “great architectural project” to build an underground welcome area beneath the tower which would “radically transform the quality of visitor service” and “requalify this prestigious urban space”.

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