Where to invest in the maze of ‘Greater Paris’?

With 200 kilometers of track and 69 new stations the Grand Paris project is easily the most ambitious reconstruction project currently on the cards in Europe.

It has a number of different objectives: to help Parisian live better lives, to facilitate investment in Ile-de-France, to open up some areas of eastern Paris and to ‘foster economic development by improving synergies between territories,’ otherwise known as ‘making commuting easier’.

As a result, all the big players in the French real estate industry, as well as well-heeled foreign investors, are watching, waiting, circling anxiously and trying to ascertain where the biggest goldmine will be.

It should be simple though shouldn’t it? Cross-rail in London was an easy play, as is just about every new transport investment in London. So why are investors stalling? Because the project is so complex that even those involved directly are already pulling their hair.

Here are some numbers to provide a little perspective. With comparable transport infrastructure project in other cities, there are normally one or two, and on occasion three project management companies set up to deliver it. For Grand Paris 20 major French companies have already set up their own branch.

The other layer of complexity comes from the French way of managing things. Aside from the 300 local municipality representatives who will each have their own say on the project and how it will affect their constituents, the system for managing tenders, whilst sensible, is arduous.

“The same urban development operation takes two years in Beijing, four years in Moscow, six years in London and twelve years in France,” summarised Thierry Lajoie, president of the land and technical agency in the Paris region, (otherwise known as AFTRP), the first developer of the Grand Paris project.

As a result, for investors it is definitely a watching and waiting game. For now there are five main targets, regarded as so as these areas will be given priority: the Ourcq canal, Gennevilliers, Villejuif, Louvres-Puiseux and the Cité Descartes in Marne-la-Vallée. So not your average hotel investment in Montmarte, but the potential is huge.

For now at least, investors continue to play the real-estate version of a one-on-one print cycling match, jockeying for position. A sprint finish is definitely on the cards….in a few years maybe.