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Reinventing Paris

The Réinventer Paris initiative, launched by then-Deputy Mayor Jean-Louis Missika in 2014, amounted to a reinvention of Parisian urban planning. Now, after a long string of impediments and delays, it seems to be bearing fruit well – including well beyond Paris.

PARIS – When I first met Jean-Louis Missika, then-Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of architecture and urban planning, in 2014, he welcomed me with an urgent question: How can we fast-track urban innovation? Years later, his answers are becoming apparent.

Missika’s office was in the Hôtel de Ville, the grand and iconic government building that had been the site of many a popular uprising. In fact, the current edifice is a re-creation of a version that was burned to the ground during the Paris Commune revolt of 1871. The Hôtel de Ville epitomizes the tension between institutional grandeur and revolutionary spirit that lies at the heart of the French capital.

Missika was well aware of this tension – and he refused to pick a side. Given his background, this should perhaps not be surprising. Born to an Algerian-Jewish family, Missika was a former professor at Sciences Po Paris, the city’s elite grand école of political science. He was also a former adviser to Xavier Niel, an entrepreneur with a penchant for disruptive innovation, reflected in projects like the Station F startup incubator and École 42, a teacherless (!) computer-programming academy.

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