The mayor of St Tropez is on a mission to reshape it, what smaller Chinese cities can offer young residents and taking a river dip in Portland, Oregon.
“St Tropez is much more than a pretty fishing village discovered by Brigitte Bardot,” says the town’s mayor, Jean Pierre Tuveri. “We have many identities: the hyper-global but also the local. Of course, we have a tradition of luxury but also of military and maritime history.”
The 79-year-old has become adept at governing a town of competing (and conflicting) extremes. “St Tropez hosts up to 35,000 permanent and secondary residents in summer, with an additional 50,000 tourists a day in peak months,” he says, stopping to shake the hand of a retired fisherman. “In winter just 4,500 residents remain. Since 1965 we’ve lost a third of our population.”
While the centre-right independent thinks of parties and super-yachts as mainstays of the economy, he also believes in safeguarding the character of his hometown for the long-serving Tropéziennes. Spurred by the loss of permanent residents, the mayor has launched projects to reverse the trend, including 166 apartments reserved strictly for locals.
Tuveri explains that due to the prohibitive cost of living, the vast majority of the resort town’s hospitality staff commute to the St Tropez peninsular, which exacerbates congestion. “We’re increasing maritime traffic,” he says. “We’re also encouraging the use of bicycles and public transport.”
Part of Tuveri’s mission to reshape St Tropez as a place for residents year round has been to restore the historical centre. “Over the past nine years we’ve spent more than €120m,” he says. “We have renovated the sewage systems, water supplies and street lighting.”
The history enthusiast hopes to bring balance to the area’s visitor numbers by building up St Tropez’s cultural cachet. He has inaugurated two new museums: one an homage to the Tropezian navy and another detailing the history of police and cinema (the link is 1964 French comedy The Troops of St Tropez). He is committed to protecting the town’s folkloric militaristic festivals and has spent millions restoring public buildings and churches. “We want to upgrade our image,” he says. “The best way to do this is through culture.”
Born: 1938 in St Tropez to parents of Italian origin
Education: Paris’s Sciences Po and a Fulbright Scholarship in the US in Berkeley
In office: Since 2008
Once, only the foolish went swimming in Portland’s Willamette River: the city’s sewage system spewed into it after heavy rain. A 20-year, $1.4bn (€1.2bn) project largely solved the issue by 2011 and the waters are rated safe to swim in.
This summer a new lido, Poet’s Beach, opened and a host of swimming clubs have plunged into action. “This is the first official notice taken of swimming in the Willamette,” says Willie Levenson of Human Access Project, a non-profit that helps with the building of river beaches. Fancy a dip?
With more opportunities abroad, young Chinese are demanding a better quality of life at home. Richard Mullane, Hassell’s Shanghai principal, discusses the challenges that Chinese cities must tackle if they are to attract a talented young workforce and survive in a new consumer-driven economy.
Why are Chinese cities prioritising liveability?
Many first-tier cities that were industrialised in China in the 1980s and 1990s destroyed their rivers and flattened their natural topography. There’s now an opportunity for smaller cities that missed that wave of development to make their natural amenities a selling point. Young people have more opportunities overseas and don’t have to stay in China. The liveability they drive is culture-focused – festivals, street life and bars weren’t priorities before.
How is this changing retail?
The focus is now shifting to hybrid retail-recreation destinations. Developers are trying to adapt and thinking, “What if I put a public pool in there?” I think that’s positive.
How are parks being incorporated in dense spaces?
In Shanghai they’ve missed the opportunity to create parks in the city; they’ve had to put green space on the periphery. The biggest challenge is whether developers can deliver enough natural amenities in their cities.
Can Chinese cities change and commit to liveability?
Beijing and Shanghai have built two of the world’s largest metro networks. So when the mayor of Shanghai talks about connecting the riverfront on both sides of the Huangpu River for walking and cycling, you know it will happen. It’s inevitable.