Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Villages of Nature at Disneyland Paris

Over 90% of Villages Nature’s
surface area will be made up of green spaces – indeed,
built up areas will not exceed 10% - and will provide new
experiences centered around water, gardens, footpaths and
horse-back riding trails, an organic farm, exploration trails,
as well as culinary events and festivals. The entire resort will
be developed around Europe’s largest water park and its
3,500m² geothermal lagoon, the icon of the destination.

How to live differently during a few days, far from one's
daily life and habits? Villages Nature designers have agreed
to address this question by re-examining the core tenets
of architecture: no ground floor, no facades, no roof. For
Jacques Ferrier (architect of the French Pavilion at the
Shanghai World's Fair), Jean de Gastines and the Patriarche
Group (the architects who helped create Center Parcs),
Thierry Huau (an architect, landscape designer and town
planner), as well as the Walt Disney Imagineering team (the
unique department devoted to creating all the Disney theme
parks and hotels worldwide), the issue was to make Villages
Nature visitors understand, from the moment they first set
eyes on the resort, that they were entering a different world.

To nurture their discussions, these various architects took
their inspiration from the attempts made to unite Man
and Nature during that very special period straddling the
19th and 20th centuries – the Arts & Crafts movement,
Art Nouveau and Jugendstil, Japanese Zen gardens. A link
was made with contemporary developments on sustainable
architecture through the works of visionary ecological
architecture artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser who,
between the 1970s and the year 2000, sought to unite once
again Man and Nature. They concluded from all this that it
was necessary to rekindle the spark of a stylistic expression
that had set nature at the core of architecture, by going still

Thus came the theme of suspended gardens intended
to showcase the lakeside residences by fully blending
architecture and landscape. Nature was to be so interlocked
with architecture that the same place would be different
from one season to the next, whether the villages are in the
forest or on the lake shore.

The same ambition, the same boldness, the same desire
to reinvent can be found in the Villages Nature project’s
other mainstay: the geothermal lagoon. The possibility of
an unlimited, natural hot water supply, with no ecological
footprint whatsoever, has multiplied the architects’ options
and stimulated their imagination. Geothermal energy has
thus helped imagine the creation of gigantic pools, three
times the size of the Center Parc Aqua Mundos and their
already exceptional stature.

Part of the lagoon will be sheltered by architectural works
which, once again, will have neither true facades nor any
real roof! Glass will be omnipresent, just as nature will,
and what could best be described as a truncated pyramid
(evocative of Mayan pyramids) will take on the aspect of a
volcano emerging from a vast expanse of water. Space use
will be unusual: upon/within this transparent hill, both the
inside and the outside will be places to discover and to enjoy
walks, games and well-being.

As the major icon of the Villages Nature project, this
lagoon, the only one of its kind in the world, will be set
at the crossroads of all sightlines in the resort and will be
visible from all points.

Deep geothermal energy, the resort’s symbol
Villages Nature will be a unique resort in terms of
sustainable tourism on such a scale. The use of deep
geothermal energy, the site’s true genius, will make it
unique and will become the symbol of the destination.
Most notably, the destination’s heating requirements,
including those of the water park, will be supplied by this
renewable, sustainable energy, which does produces no
greenhouse gas emissions:  two wells bored to a depth of
1,800 metres, water at a temperature of 78°C will feed the
surface heating networks using a calorie transfer process,
prior to being re-injected into the underground water
table called dogger. In the future, geothermal energy will
also help supply up to 30% of heating requirements for
both Disneyland Theme Parks and the Disneyland Hotel.

Man lived in close intimacy with nature

A shared determination towards innovation in tourism and
inspiration for future generations
It was because they shared a common determination with regards to innovation
in their core tourism business, and to inspire future generations that Pierre
& Vacances Center Parcs and Euro Disney joined forces to design Villages
Nature. This desire to launch a holiday destination project on a European scale,
sustainable both in its design and in its operations, had in fact been rooted for
a long time deep within both partners’ corporate values. Indeed, Disney has
created or been involved in numerous films about nature, notably films from
Commandant Cousteau; while the Pierre & Vacances Center Parcs Group has
widely materialised its commitment to Sustainable Development, through its
Domaine de Belle Dune in the Bay of Somme (labelled Eco-Village), or its
brand new Center Parc des Trois Forêts Moselle-Lorraine.

A unique resort
Villages Nature will be a unique resort, entirely separate from the Disneyland
Paris and Center Parcs concepts, even though it was inspired by the success
of those major destinations and by the values upheld by both companies. It
will allow visitors over a stay of several days to recharge their batteries, share
emotions, and rediscover nature around a variety of themes and activities. It
will, in an entertaining and educational way, raise awareness among future
generations, causing them to think about our natural environment and the
future of our planet. Water Park, Geothermal Lagoon, Adventure Island,
Amazing Gardens, Organic Farm... Each one a name which, tomorrow, will
become reality, inventing the new lexicon of holidays with a difference... Each
one an exceptional attraction, an unexpected experience and a way to reconnect
with nature, with your loved ones and with yourself... All this in the very heart
of France and Europe...

The site will feature a central welcome reception area and information spots,
themed restaurants and shops, as well as a lakeland area whose contours
will provide secret nooks sheltering the cottages and apartments, the whole
interspersed with preserved forest: there will be a variety of atmospheres and
innumerable surprises...

While the fundamentals of the project can be expressed in a single word, nature,
the issue is not to cultivate some degree of nostalgia or some utopic “back to
nature” idea, but rather to face the future with a decidedly positive attitude,
simultaneously celebrating the lasting relationship between Man and Nature in
the past, the present and the future. Accordingly, the very best in technology,
architecture, construction and landscaping will be used with a view to turning
the performance into thrills, and the excellence into emotion.

- Thus Euro Disney will provide Villages Nature with its unrivalled expertise
in the development of theme parks and hotels at Disneyland Paris, the leading
tourist destination in Europe with over 230 million visitors since 1992; the
worldwide strength of the Disney brand in terms of innovation and creativity,
to offer its visitors unforgettable moments within a cohesive story; and its expertise of European tourist market trends and European families’ expectations
in terms of quality of experience and stay.

Located close to disneyland Paris, europe’s leading tourist destination
The Villages Nature site is located 6 Km south of Disneyland Paris,
north of the Brie Forest (in French: Brie Boisée), in Seine-et-Marne.
This project, which could span up to 500 hectares and be developed
over a 20 year timeframe, will be launched depending on market
conditions.  The first phase would be comprised of 175 hectares located within the municipalities of Villeneuve-le-Comte and Bailly-Romainvilliers.and could open in 2015.

An exceptional site enjoying ideal transport connections
From the inception of the project, Pierre & Vacances Center Parcs
and Euro Disney’s ambition was to invent and establish proximity
tourism in the heart of France, in the heart of Europe.

To give Villages Nature the means to fully express itself, a very large
site with very specific environmental features was required. This vast
area surrounded by forests existed in the Paris region not far from
Disneyland Paris, Europe’s leading tourist destination.

Not only will this proximity foster a complementary interplay
between both resorts, but also this favourable geographic location
will put Villages Natures within reach of European visitors, thanks
to the exceptional transport infrastructures that already exist in Val
d’Europe, and which will continue to grow in the future under the
aegis of the French authorities: France’s leading TGV hub at Marnela-Vallée/Chessy, the RER A railway, the A4 motorway, intercity bus
lines and more.

A unique destination
Villages Nature will be a destination in its own right, separate from
Disneyland Paris and Pierre & Vacances and from their respective
Theme Parks and Hotels and Center Parcs concepts. Villages Nature
will represent a journey, a gentle, appealing experience, an imaginary
trip over a three-day, four-day or weeklong period... These will be
holidays, a break in the daily routine, where technological prowess
will be harnessed to serve emotion al experiences and simple pleasures:
to see, to listen, to feel, to move, to discover, to share... Villages Nature is
not only a new geographic experience, but a new sensory experience
as well.

An opportunity for individual and institutional investors
The first phase of Villages Nature would include the construction of
1 730 lodging units, either apartments or cottages, and measuring
between 32 m² and 85 m², located within three villages: two villages
around the lake and one village in the forest.  Indoor and outdoor
leisure facilities are also planned, for a total 70 000 m² area.

Based on the 40-year proven real estate development model of Pierre
& Vacances, the housing units would be sold to individual investors as
tourism residences (in French : Residences de Tourisme) while facilities
would be sold to institutional investors. The housing units and facilities
will be leased and managed by the Villages Nature operating company.
Pre-commercialisation could start during the second half of 2011.

Questions asked to Dominique Cocquet, Managing Director, Villages Nature

What kind of territorial integration do you expect for the future
destination ?
Our need to fully integrate Villages Nature into its host territory in Seine-et-Marne in
general, and into its surrounding municipalities in particular, is a crucial aspect of our
sustainable development approach. That is why we did not wait for the actual launch
of Villages Nature to initiate dialogue with the relevant local elected officials, and held
several public meetings to allow for the best possible appropriation of the project. We
shall continue to do this on a regular basis until the destination opens. Moreover, we
have begun meeting with local associations interested in the living environment and in
protecting the natural environment, as well as various business associations (Farming,
Retail, Craftsmen, Construction) in the département, in order to provide information
and enhance the project through their comments. In addition to this local consultation,
the destination itself is expected to contribute to the growth of the area by creating 4,500
direct and indirect jobs by 2015, generating an attractive tax revenue stream, and by
working in synergy with local business players including farmers and tourist industry

What are your next three priorities to initiate the project’s actual launch ?
In the coming year, we shall be tackling three major tasks. To begin with, between now and
the end of 2010, the setting up of all public and land acquisition procedures. Then we shall
continue with the architectural, town-planning and technical studies, which actually should
extend throughout 2012 and 2013. Finally, probably during the second half of 2011, we
shall launch commercialisation of the 1,730 lodging units planned for phase 1. All this in
order to be ready for our plan to start construction works in the first half of 2013, depending
on the land acquisitions, with an expected opening of the first lot in phase 1 in 2015.

Dominique Cocquet is Managing Director for Villages Nature. He was born in 1947 and has been working at Euro
Disney since 1989. Dominique Cocquet has successively held the positions of Director Land Development, VicePresident External Relations, Vice-President Development & External Relations, and Senior Vice-President, Strategic
Consulting and Development.  Before that, he had held a variety of positions in various State regional planning and
economic development agencies, in particular that of Director of the Agency for Development of the Picard Coast
from 1980 to 1986, prior to being appointed General Manager for Forest Hill Development and Urbaclub Développement, at which time he headed the Aquaboulevard project in Paris. Dominique Cocquet is also Chairman of the Strategy Commission for Atout France, as well as sitting on the Economic and Social Board of the Ile-de-France Region
and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Seine-et-Marne.

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