The Industrial Port of Saint-Nazaire, an XXL Development
Interview with David Samzun, Mayor of Saint-Nazaire
Ville de Saint-Nazaire become a member of AIVP in 1995.
Then, since 2010, the Communauté d’Agglomération de la région nazairienne et de l’estuaire become a member.
Nantes Saint-Nazaire Port is a member of AIVP since 1990.
The Agence pour le Développement Durable de la Région Nazairienne is also a member since 1992.
The “Boulevard des apprentis” project was unveiled to the press and local residents last autumn. It will allow us to open up a new access to the industrial-port zone of Saint-Nazaire while also creating new spaces for economic operators in the zone, particularly the STX naval yards. Work began at the beginning of 2017. The challenge is to reconcile the expansion of the port city’s economic activity with the quality of life of local residents. Interview with David Samzun, Mayor of Saint-Nazaire, who will also tell us about the latest developments with Saint-Nazaire’s City/Port development plans.
AIVP – The “Boulevard des apprentis” project was unveiled to the press and local residents last autumn. Can you tell us briefly the reasons behind the project and the challenges involved, and broadly what it entails?
David Samzun – The initial thought process behind the project took shape as early as 2010. The city’s relationship with the port is already a key factor in its urban project and the redeployment of the industrial make-up of Saint-Nazaire, with the modernisation of the yards, and the diversification towards offshore wind power. The STX group’s order book has been full ever since. The « Grand port maritime » seaport is completing work to redevelop the renewable energies hub and reinforce the docks used to load and unload those materials. Moving the “Boulevard des apprentis” therefore became a necessity, to support these industrial developments the new jobs generated.
Almost 15 million euros in private and public investment underpins this major operation. The Saint-Nazaire conurbation is the project owner. It represents the first stage of a much more ambitious plan to completely overhaul maritime, road and rail access for the industrial port zone, which will involve creating a new route connecting the industrial sites of Montoir-de-Bretagne with the Penhoët and Saint-Nazaire basins, wide enough to accommodate 21-metre wide convoys (and up to 40 metre closer to the wind hub). Altogether, some 40 million in investment – mainly public – has been dedicated to strengthening and reshaping Saint-Nazaire’s industrial port zone, modernising the port installations and redeveloping the offshore win hub.
A project of this scale and complexity would not have been possible without a very substantial level of commitment and cooperation between public and private stakeholders. An urban development agency – a common resource shared between the conurbation, the City of Saint-Nazaire and Nantes Saint-Nazaire Port, but also with the State, the Region and the Département – was one of the main facilitators.
AIVP – The plans involve moving this major road closer to a residential area. That has likely raised fears and reactions due to its potential impact, whether in terms of risk or environmental considerations. What practical measures are planned to integrate the project with urban zones?
David Samzun – The main concern raised during the public consultation was without doubt the fear of increased noise close to residential areas, especially at night, which is entirely understandable. That issue was closely studied and modelled during the project design phase, and everything possible has been done to ensure the best possible co-existence between the residential city and the working city.
Moving the boulevard des apprentis gives us an opportunity to restore an earth mound barrier that is currently neglected, which covers old fresh water reservoirs, which are going to be used for an unexpected new purpose. These blocks of concrete, part of Saint-Nazaire’s historic legacy, are going to be turned into viewing towers overlooking the shipyards for walkers and passers-by, in a landscaped setting, which will increase the space and quality of the existing “Square des Aviateurs”. Mixed-use or office premises will also be created to extent the sound protection provided by the existing earth mound barrier, avoiding the need for often unsightly solutions like noise barriers. Essentially, we’re going to do a lot better with what’s already there…
For the rest, I think that the inhabitants of Saint-Nazaire have a real risk culture, industrially or even economically. And in this city, and particularly in the Méan-Penhoët district, the working city is a real part of the city itself, with all its disturbances and risks… but also its history and its jobs…
AIVP – We have been keeping the members of our network regularly updated on developments in the Saint-Nazaire City-Port project launched over 20 years ago. In 2012, participants at AIVP’s 12th World Conference, which was held in Nantes and Saint-Nazaire, had the opportunity to see the project for themselves, and in particular the developments in an around the former submarine base. How does it look today? And what are the latest projects undertaken or envisaged in the short term for this sector of the urban port of Saint-Nazaire?
David Samzun – The City-Port has certainly been the project which best embodies the desire to reconquer Saint-Nazaire as an urban environment. It required a considerable investment, but was badly needed. Today, it has to be said that operations like Ville-Ouest (“West-City”) or the waterfront redevelopment have perhaps had significantly altered the balance of the city.
The old submarine base is not neglected though. Escal’Atlantic reports continued high visitor numbers, the VIP and the Life are among the City’s cultural hotspots, the Theatre, very close by on the site of the old transatlantic terminal, is a popular success.
Work to redevelop the site for associations in pen 12 has begun, based on plans by the Belgian agency 51N4E. It will free up the Petit Maroc platform, which is encumbered by a number of buildings, and will re-open Saint-Nazaire onto the estuary. In front of the old submarine base, the former refrigerated warehouses have also recently been demolished. We are working to create a marina there, in the heart of the city. We still need to carry out some major studies to complete the project, which I believe will have a crucial impact for transforming Saint-Nazaire’s image, and create a new atmosphere in the city centre.
Activating Saint-Nazaire’s coastline, which is also the coast of the wider Nantes Saint-Nazaire conurbation, is one of the key themes of the new urban project that’s taking shape. The “urban” port of Saint-Nazaire is naturally one of the most valuable sectors for the project. It is one of those sites, like the city centre, that I often describe as being part of the shared heritage of all Saint-Nazaire residents. And from 2017, festivities to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the landing of the US army and the historic return to Saint-Nazaire of the Queen Mary as part of the operation “The Bridge” will truly put this district in the spotlight.