Fréquel Fontarabie

Dates of completion2002-2009
Surface area1 ha (10,000 m2)
Localization20th arrondissement, Paris, France
Project descriptionExtensive environmental remediation and restoration of dilapidated “faubourg” with industrial “character” preservation
9575 m2 built space, including 109 social housing units (74 new, 35 renovated) as well as 60 daycare spaces (100 m2 facility), elementary school, and neighbourhood café
CertificationÉcoquartier label (2013)


The Fréquel Fontarabie redevelopment project sits within the ancient village of Charonne in the outermost arrondissement of Paris. It is adjacent to the Quartier St. Blaise, one of the most densely-populated public housing projects in Europe. In the early 2000s, the area had a reputation as marginal, impoverished, and with dilapidated buildings, including a former photographic film development factory that had severely contaminated the soil. The French government had undertaken redevelopment activities in the surrounding area since 1979 but had excluded the Fréquel “island” because of the complexity of its tenure and cadastral arrangements. This earlier redevelopment effort had given rise to a local anti-displacement residents group, a successful lobby effort for a new library, gymnasium, rooftop community garden, and local political interest in preserving the historical structure and form of the neighbourhood.


Public sector led: Ville de Paris, Société immobilière d’économie mixte de la Ville de Paris (SIEMP)

Local political champion: Fabienne Giboudeaux

Coordinating architect : Eva Samuel,

Sustainable Development

The Fréquel project was completed in 2009, featuring a showcase of different green building technologies, including Paris’s first multi-unit residential passivhaus. The work was oriented around remediation, restoration and careful de-densification, work to “de-densify,” restore and “re-knit” the existing components of the neighbourhood that were not slated for demolition. The entire project consists of social housing apartments, 74 of which are new and 35 are renovated. Community amenities and meeting places are also included, so the neighbourhood now includes a family-oriented Super Café with a courtyard, other local merchants and social service offices, a new daycare facility, Maternity and Infant Protection office, and elementary school. An open interior greenspace was created to add “breathing space” to the area as a whole, accessible to all neighbourhood residents 24 hours a day. Fréquel is well serviced by Paris tramway, bus and Métro as well as, more recently, bicycle and car sharing services.

In view of its achievements, the Fréquel Fontarabie redevelopment served as a model for the development of the national Écoquartier label in France and was awarded this label in 2013. 

Researchers working on this project

Meg Holden