Le Ban St Martin Town Centre

Agence Babylone: Le Ban Saint Martin is ideally located between Moselle and Mont Saint Quentin and just 3km from the very centre of Metz. It is 3 hours from Paris, 1 hour 45 minutes from Strasbourg, 45 minutes from Luxembourg, 30 minutes from Nancy and 25 minutes from the regional airport. With a total of 4,500 inhabitants on an area of 159ha, Le Ban Saint Martin is one of the most densely populated towns in the Moselle department. Destroyed several times over the course of its history, it has suffered from rather disparate town planning and the town centre has disappeared while the outskirts have flourished. The fact that more than 80% of the town is at risk of flooding and subsidence has added to the difficulties encountered during the course of this project. The town benefits from a number of private and public services: a socio-cultural centre (the Ru-Ban), a secondary school, 2 primary schools and 2 nursery schools, a sports complex, public transport, various services for children, most notably a day care centre, currently in the planning phase, which will be built in the new town centre. A university campus, the Regional Training Institute for Social Workers (Institut Régional des Travailleurs Sociaux / IRTS), a retirement home, a number of general practitioners and specialists and numerous local stores complete the range of services and facilities in the town.

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Particularly dynamic with regard to well-founded urban planning, Le Ban Saint Martin has managed to find a demographic balance and achieve a constant renewal of its population, which is a reflection of the maintenance of services and exemplary social diversity that have made town particularly desirable to future homeowners or tenants. More than 200 residences, of which 80 are subsidised housing, are currently under construction. The population is relatively heterogeneous: some of the inhabitants who have been living in the area for a long time naturally identify strongly with the town, while others who have settled more recently in the area (for example, the strong military community) find it more difficult to live in Le Ban Saint Martin and see themselves more as residents of the conglomeration of Metz.

The policy implemented over the past 20 years has focused on accentuating the identity of the area and on improving services and public spaces. The aim is offer a quality environment to a population that exhibits a social diversity which is the focus of constant research. Recapturing the heart of the town by reconstructing it on wasteland formerly used by the military is a part of this logic, which focuses on identity and quality. The intention is to establish the foundation for a new balance between the territories of the town. To this end, the Place de la Hottée de Pommes, the square which marks the heart of the new town centre, will be home to the new Town Hall, a day care centre and a weekly market. A café terrace has already been established in the Square.

Creating a town centre

The commission for Le Ban St Martin focuses on the creation of a new town centre (public spaces, accommodation, public facilities, park), located on former military wasteland, which is most notably situated at the geographic centre of the town. The site is also subject to flooding (hazard level: orange), which gives rise to significant hydraulic and construction limitations, with a constructibility rating for sites 1.7m above ground level. The challenge is to reconcile this opportunity and these limitations to reconstruct a true centre for Le Ban St Martin. The project anchors the town centre around a square that is an “urban monument” in its own right, an apt way of cementing the image of centrality that has so clearly been lacking. This “monument” is embodied in the future buildings (approximately 72 multiple housing units, Agence Nicolas Michelin acting as project supervisor, and a public building) that will face onto the square, but particularly in a huge wooden structure, which acts as a forecourt housing various facilities, with a terrace, stairs, a ramp for persons of reduced mobility, terraces, a stage, etc., and which structures and personifies the area. The structure will also act as junction between the ground and the shopping streets leading to the buildings located 1.7 m above ground level.

The public spaces and the wooden structure were constructed before the buildings so as to encourage the immediate and successful appropriation of the new centre by the inhabitants of the town. The adjacent park is organised into an extensive, semi-natural space for leisure and sports use, where the presence and rhythm of water are highlighted through the creation of appropriate ecosystems (ponds, reed beds, wet meadows, etc.).

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