In Toulon, projects are multiplying to create new centres of attraction.
While some business travelers are still lounging around on the Côte d’Azur for a well-deserved break, their future business destination may be right next door. In any case, Toulon is – at last – giving itself the means to really exist on the economic scene, to attract new investors, and to change a grey image a thousand miles away from its record sunshine rate. While the metropolis was giving off the image of a dormant city, local officials were working behind the scenes to get their hands on land in order to redevelop the city centre. The Chalucet district is a showcase for this development, having exchanged its hospital for a new centre, where the Fine Arts building and the Maison de la Créativité now stand. It is home to the Kedge business school, as well as Camondo: the prestigious Parisian school has shown confidence in the Toulon project, and will inaugurate its Camondo Méditerranée branch in 2019, which will also be attached to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris.
Far from the rugby, cade and pétanque cliché, Toulon has indeed built an increasingly solid reputation on the design scene, and in creativity in general, by dint of investments and partnerships. This is how the local councillors have chosen to name this “Creativity and Knowledge District”. This new centre is not the culmination of Toulon’s ambitions, but rather the starting point of a vast metamorphosis. Because in the extension of this new complex – and alongside the inauguration of the Halles in the heart of the city at the beginning of September – the Montéty project has also been launched.
“It’s an old working class housing estate, which has its history, but which also has its future
“, describes Boris Bernabeu, Deputy Director of Services within the General Directorate for Territorial Attractiveness of the Toulon Provence Méditerranée Metropolis. Within this block, which will be linked to the station area by a “Pont des Arts”, a training institute, a hotel, a new generation service residence integrating co-working and co-living, and spaces dedicated to the tertiary sector are expected. All of this will be complemented by a 16,000 m² park. A vast data centre is also expected to be built nearby.
We are redesigning the Toulon of the 21st century with a very structuring project
Did you say XXL project? The best part is yet to be invented. Because Toulon is going to attack what makes the soul, the character of the city: its seafront in the heart of the city. In September, the winners of the “From Mayol to Pipady” competition will be unveiled, a 44-hectare development project in the heart of the city centre that is particularly ambitious. ” We are redesigning the Toulon of the 21st century with a very structuring project “, promises Boris Bernabeu, who adds: ” Everything is on the table in terms ofthe city’s future.
n order to make Toulon a city break destination and a conference destination.Why not create a promenade, ramblas, restaurants, shopping areas, even a new convention centre and a maritime innovation centre with the Marine Museum and an aquarium? Boris Bernabeu continues: ” The time for projects is finally becoming possible, and Toulon’s desirability, particularly with investors, has become concrete. This is illustrated in particular by the inauguration of the Okko, Place de la Liberté. We could not have had this hotel six or seven years ago, because the city’s maturity threshold had not been reached
. The contours of the vast “From Mayol to Pipady” project should be clearer by September (Source: TPM)
Clearly, Toulon is giving itself a new city center, and even a new population… For several years now, university sites have been inaugurated in the heart of the city, whereas for a long time they were “exiled” to less central areas. And the trend is accelerating, giving a new dynamic to a city centre that has long been neglected. This gentrification should attract talent in training, which until now has favoured cities that are better known in the university field – and in that of student life… – in the image of Aix-en-Provence at regional level. Talents who, once they have graduated, may well decide to continue the experience on the spot, and to contribute their stone to the Toulon edifice in full reconstruction.
” In the 1990s, there were 3,000 students for 400,000 inhabitants in a city that was not yet a city: it was very low . Today, we have more than 16,000. It’s still not enough, but it’s already a great improvement ,” says Patrick Valverde, General Manager of Toulon Var Technologies (TVT). He continues: ” We estimate that there are about 2,500 students in the digital sector in the city centre. At one time, our incubators were located outside the city. We realised that they were looking for urban areas, so we brought everything back to the city centre. ” We need young people in the area: we need to be able to attract them for their studies and then keep them in Toulon
,” agrees Boris Bernabeu from the TPM Metropolis. Jean Larroumets (left), President of French Tech Toulon, and Patrick Valverde (right), CEO of Toulon Var Technologies
This demographic change is accompanied by economic diversification. Too long confined to defence-related activities, Toulon’s economy is now exploring new growth levers. Without, however, denying its indefectible link with the sea and the arsenal. ” At one time, in Toulon, there was not a single SME in the industry.
s technology sector that was not dependent on defence, at least 80%. Today,it is the other way around “, summarises Patrick Valverde. ” We are working on a “dual” logic, using technologies that were linked to defence to move into digital technology, commerce, agriculture, etc. It is less traumatic in terms of dependence. It is less traumatic in terms of dependence. The sea and defence are both very cross-disciplinary fields,” he continues.
In Toulon, there is a whole range of start-ups that have taken advantage of this dynamic that can be found in cities undergoing reconversion, in these city centres under reconstruction
With its wealth of new talent and openness to new sectors of activity, Toulon has seen the emergence of an ecosystem of start-ups, which the French Tech label has helped to structure in an increasingly favourable environment. ” In Toulon there is a whole set of start-ups that have been able to take advantage of this dynamic that we find in cities undergoing reconversion, in these city centres undergoing reconstruction, with these land opportunities offered by the free zone that have enabled companies to set up,” describes Boris Bernabeu within the Metropolis. ” There is a dynamic around digital technology, which Toulon Var Technologies has been able to structure well, and which also involves a partnership that is very pleasing to the national defense, embodied by the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA). The DGA needs research, innovation in strategic areas. An agreement was signed in 2018, to associate the various players in joint projects “. Recently appointed president of French Tech Toulon, Jean Larroumets testifies: ” The advantage of French Tech in Toulon is that we can rely on TVT’s thirty years of expertise. Some cities have the French Tech label, but no structure or premises. Here, we have a lot of quality premises, which are visible, which crystallize energies. Chalucet and the Maison du numérique are among them.
Murex: a new “inspiring” event
Last July, Murex 2021 was held in Chalucet. A new meeting close to the spirit of Ted X, which also tends to energize the world of entrepreneurship in Toulon, while confronting it with national and international players. Patrick Valverde, who initiated the project, explains: ” We wanted to create a festive moment that would bring together entrepreneurs, innovators and inspiring people, through conferences, workshops, etc. “. With some 1,400 participants and more than 120 meetings organized – despite the health context and the temptation of the beach – the organizers have succeeded in their challenge for this second edition. And they could see the event grow from year to year. ” It is an approach that should be generalized at the regional level, especially since the other French Tech in the region have looked at the event with great interest,” says Jean Larroumets, President of French Tech Toulon.
Improved transport links
To accompany this all-out development, the transport offer has also been rethought. Of course, this rock that has been dragging in the shoe of the different municipalities for many years will not disappear overnight. And the abandonment of the tramway, which was on the right track, did not help matters… But the project of a “Toulon RER” is starting to take shape. Objective: trains linking the East and the West of the city, and which would bring the different strategic points closer together at a more regular pace. A project that includes the renovation of several stations in Toulon’s neighbouring towns and the creation of a multimodal hub, the Sainte-Musse stop.
As for Toulon Hyères airport, the concession entrusted to Vinci Airports since 2015 seems to be breathing new life into it. A modernisation plan was completed in October 2020, with Vinci describing the work as ” the most important since the airport was built in 1967“. Despite competition from the two neighbouring hubs of Marseille and Nice, the Var airport intends to make a place for itself in the sun over the coming years. And local officials intend to exploit the platform’s potential even further: ” We work very closely with Toulon Hyères airport, which is developing very favourably, and which has shown all the advantages of such a platform,” says Boris Bernabeu at the heart of the Metropolis. Normally, it handles 500,000 passengers a year, but it is designed to handle one million, and it should reach this figure. Toulon-Hyères is particularly well positioned, especially as Marseille and Nice are saturated: it makes no sense to land there to go to the Var,” he adds.
I’m Michelle, and I love to travel. As a former hotel expert for one of the world’s largest hotel chains, I’ve stayed in nearly every type of room imaginable (including many that were not so desirable!). Nowadays, I am fortunate enough to be able to explore the world on my own terms. From international flights to learning different languages, there is nothing too far out of reach!