When people talk about Pantin as the next Brooklyn, and leaving aside the headline effect of its resurgent trendiness, they have to admit that the similarities between this Paris suburb and New York’s gentrification poster-child are real.
Built on a reclaimed industrial heritage and with strong links to graffiti culture, both cities attract not just growing families but artists, creators and artisans in search of affordable space. While the original attraction of Brooklyn is unclear, the appeal of Pantin goes back to the 18th century, when its “good air” was already being praised. At that time, a scattering of notable artistic characters could be observed strolling nonchalantly through its streets (Beaumarchais was among them, along with the dancers La Guimart and Anne Victoire Dervieux and also Rodolphe, a friend of Mozart and a composer himself).
For Mira Kamdar, a New York Times editorial writer, “The comparison with Brooklyn is fair up to a point. Pantin doesn’t have the same architectural heritage and is trying to avoid the kind of gentrification that would displace - as in Brooklyn - the local, less prosperous, population.” While Pantin can boast only a few architectural landmarks ( The Grands Moulins of BNP Paribas, the Arts and Crafts Centre, Chanel, the Hermès building and - why not? - our own Magasins Généraux), we can roundly approve its determination to remain affordable and liveable. Result: the population of “Pantinois” has reached 60,000 (compare that to 49,000 in 2001 and 1172 in...1793).
In terms of the food & culture to-do list, Pantin has little to envy its big American cousin. A walk along the Canal de l’Ourcq will give you a good idea. Starting at BETC, you’ll pass one after the other: Le Pantin, Augustin Legrand’s new organic eatery (he’s the founder of Don Quixote’s Children and the boss of Le Bichat), and Dock B, a new hybrid space from the Bellevilloise team - both of them inside the ground floor of the Magasins généraux.
Proceeding along the Place de la Pointe, you’ll notice the offices of Hermès (winner of the Silver Square prize in 2014), the Théâtre au fil de l’Eau and, a bit further on, the CND (Centre National de la Danse). Finally, after a bit more pedalling, you’ll come to la Villette where, for entertainment, you can choose between the park, the Grand Halle, the Zenith, the City of Music or the renowned Paris Philharmonic, no less.
Back in Pantin, we would highly recommend trying one of Pantin’s own delicious lagers at the Brasserie Gallia bar, enjoy a (necessarily) good arthouse film at Ciné 104 (along with a quick bite at Vertigo) or maybe a concert at Dynamo, a venue custom-designed for jazz (even though it also hosts Sofiane - keep that to yourself). Finally, if you’re hard-core, there’s the Thaddaeus Ropac gallery, open since 2012, that attracts tens of thousands of visitors for every exhibition (Anselm Kiefer, Antony Gormley...).
In her autumn 2013 NYT article “The Other Paris - Beyond the Boulevards”, Mira Kamdar proclaims that “the future of Paris is the suburbs”. Who can argue with that?