The tiny, two-block-long Rue Dénoyez in Paris’s 20th arrondissement has been one of the French capital’s foremost street art venues for years, but two subsidized housing projects could spell the end for this plein air gallery.
Earlier this month a banner reading “Sauvons la rue Dénoyez” (“Save Rue Dénoyez”) was hung above the narrow, cobblestoned alley, Street Press reports. It appeared in response to requests, put forth by the 20th arrondissement’s mayor’s office, for proposals to demolish the buildings stretching from 18B to 22B Rue Dénoyez and build 18 subsidized housing units and a daycare, as well as to redevelop the buildings at 24 and 26 Dénoyez and 10 Rue de Belleville into 29 subsidized housing units and a community center. In a city as unaffordable as Paris, the construction of new affordable housing units should be applauded, but the artists and organizations that stand to be displaced by the developments are not pleased.
“To be clear, we are not opposed to daycare centers and subsidized housing,” Cédric Borderie, of community group Fais ta rue, told Street Press. “But why here? In this street we have managed to build something exceptional. Everybody here talks to each other, all the communities mix. And the artists are very important. They create a social link.”
Borderie’s group, as well as the art organizations La Maison de la Plage, Friches et Nous la Paix, and Traces, all occupy spaces along the street that have been told to vacate to make way for the wrecking ball. They’ve enjoyed a very low monthly rent of €200 (about $254) for years, courtesy of the local mayor’s office. Borderie has launched a petition (which, as of this writing, has garnered over 3,100 signatures) on behalf of the organizations, businesses, artists, and residents who rent spaces on Dénoyez, calling for the renovation of the buildings currently slated for demolition, the setting aside of additional community spaces, and the daycare’s relocation to Rue de Bellevile.
“Initially, the daycare center was supposed to be installed at 36 Rue de Belleville, but the local residents mobilized in opposition,” Hélène Vicq, the 20th arrondissement mayor’s adjunct in charge of urbanism and architecture, told Street Press. “This is the only suitable parcel left in the arrondissement, so we don’t really have a choice … The street art gives [Rue Dénoyez] its identity. We’ll leave them some walls to paint on.”
Others have less patience for the local organizations’ complaints.
“It’s been five years since we were warned, and they’re just waking up now,” Sadi Sami, the proprietor of Aux Vieux Saumur, the bistro on the corner of Belleville and Dénoyez, told Street Press. He and the owners of two other local businesses have been fighting the city since they received a letter in 2009 warning them of the redevelopment project. “We’re doing our best to slow down the project. We’ve just filed an appeal, but we don’t have much chance of winning.”