Central Business District
Former warehouse building
High street retail
ULI Global Awards for Excellence 2016 Winner
A brief is a short version of a case study.
Les Docks Village is a new lifestyle and urban retail center, located in the waterfront district of Marseille, that was developed by Constructa Urban Systems for owner JP Morgan Asset Management. The project involved the rehabilitation of the 15,000 square meters on the ground floor of Les Docks, an 80,000-square-meter office building originally built as a warehouse in 1857. The new design for the lower-level Les Docks Village retail area provides light, transparency, nature, and new color around 60 shops and restaurants arranged around four courtyards connected by an interior passageway that runs through this very long building. The upper floors were restored in an earlier renovation, and this ground-level redevelopment opened the building to the public with a festive and convivial atmosphere.
The concept behind Les Docks Village was to create an urban retail center as opposed to a shopping mall. Les Docks is a seven-story building that encompasses 80,000 square meters of space, including more than 60,000 square meters of office space and around 15,000 square meters of retail and restaurant space. The developer, Constructa Urban Systems, has sought to maintain the authenticity of the building by using existing materials in the new space, including stone, brick, and iron materials and features.
The new retail includes various restaurants, bars, and an indoor fresh market, and numerous soft-goods retailers, and features several terraces and gathering places—areas attractive to workers, tourists, and families alike. The essence of the project was to create a strong festive and convivial atmosphere throughout the day and evening. Today, Les Docks Village is alive with activity and the building has a new identity, including four different and distinct internal courtyards, inviting dialog, meetings, leisure, and shopping.
The Site and Background
Les Docks was originally developed in 1857 as a warehouse in the port district of Marseille; the site lies about one block from the Mediterranean waterfront. The building and site are both very long and narrow. On the west side, nearest to the water, the building is bordered by Quai du Lazaret and by a roadway that is elevated along the northern part of the building and underground within a tunnel along the southern part of the building. The building is bordered by a quiet narrow street on the east side. A square, Place de la Joliette, is located at the southern end of the property. The surrounding area is mostly a business district.
Les Docks has survived 160 years of glory and abandon. It was part of the golden years of the harbor of Marseille, followed by decline and neglect for many years. It then saw partial revival in 1995 when it was successfully transformed into an office building, hosting 220 companies today with more than 3,500 employees.
The building was bought by JP Morgan Asset Management in 2007 for around €200 million, with the first goal to further refurbish the six floors of office space. This work was completed by 2010, and Les Docks is now a prime office address in Marseille with a central position in the heart of Euromediteranée business district. The building offers an atypical working environment with excellent views of the water and the city.
The second stage of redevelopment, beginning in 2010, involved the renovation of the ground floor, with the objective to open the building to the public and respond to the retail and restaurant needs of the 25,000 employees working in the immediate area. At that time, the development of “Les Terrasses du Port,” just across the street, was underway as a regional shopping center with more than 220 shops and 60,000 square meters on three floors. The developers knew that this competition would be tough and that they would need to differentiate their offering and create the right strategy to succeed. They chose a plan that focused on specialty local retailers completed by craft food, restaurants, and bars and pubs.
Planning, Design, and Construction
The original building was designed with a number of unusual features and references—to days, weeks, months, and years. The building is 365 meters long, like the number of days in the year, and includes four courtyards symbolizing the four seasons. The building also includes 52 ground-level doors, one for each week of the year, and seven floors, one for each day of the week.
Along the length of the building, the architects created four principal entry points to the retail, each aligned with one of the four internal courtyards in the development. Entrances are also located at each end of the building. A stylized transparent metal structure was added to the southern end, featuring a seven-story letter D for Docks and the project name Les Docks in large letters, all highly visible from the adjacent roadway.
All of the retail and restaurants are arranged along the length of an interior passageway and around the four internal courtyards. The architecture features both brick and stone as well as new porcelain stoneware and ceramic tiles that were added throughout the new interior spaces, including the creation of a “blue” courtyard, with beautifully arranged blue tile added to much of the courtyard floor and walls.
The retail design was created by 5+1AA Agency Architecture. In approaching the design, the architects note on their website, “We have been particularly attentive to how things are perceived, visual apertures, pathways and other features: light to create original atmospheres, the sun and wind as architectural/energy devices.” They go on to observe: “The architecture is a carefully targeted response to a very specific setting: the project weaves relations between the docks, city and seaside; the site of the old structure will become an open system extending to the sea through penetrations, transparencies and new relations; the arrangement of the internal courtyards is designed in relation to the various flows and their intensity with respect to the various locations.”
Although the entire building consists of elements retained from the original structure, including stone walls, brick vaults, and iron portals, the architectural and design qualities of each corridor and courtyard offer visitors a new experience and a unique sense of place. A festive atmosphere is created by restaurants, bars, and an indoor fresh produce market.
Construction of the ground floor and retail renovations took 28 months, and was completed in October 2015.
Performance and Market Acceptance
The goal for Les Docks Village was to turn the ground floor into a lively urban retail center, an open space to the public, as opposed to an enclosed shopping center. With €50 million invested to open new doors, dig two courtyards, and create the new space, the strategy was to attract first and develop the loyalty of the 25,000 employees working nearby, and respond to their daily needs.
With 40 percent of the spaces dedicated to food through restaurants, bars, and a fresh food market, the developers sought to create a strong festive and convivial atmosphere for workers, but also draw visitors and families. With 30 percent of the space dedicated to community stores, including artisans, the developers wanted to clearly show that the national or international brands were not the essence of the project. They wanted to create a place with a strong identity inviting to dialog, meetings, leisure, and shopping.
The office building is 90 percent occupied and the gross revenue of the office building is around €11.5 million (US$12.2 million). The stabilized revenue from the ground floor and basement refurbishment (the village retail refurbishment project) represented an increase of 40 percent of the total revenue, around €4.5 million (US$4.8 million), and it also improved the attractiveness of the building for the office tenants. The newly renovated space also allowed the investor—JP Morgan Asset Management—to diversity the project risk between office and commercial leases, creating one of the more prime buildings in central Marseille. The retail/restaurant occupancy rate is now around 85 percent.
Observations and Lessons Learned
Unique places with historic features can create challenges but can also be uniquely successful retail and restaurant locations that are difficult to duplicate with new development. The Marseille community has been attracted to this development in large part because of its historic nature and location.
While the trend in retail is away from interior mall environments, the qualities of this building clearly have been perceived by the market as offering an urban retail experience that is not like a mall and more like an urban street experience. The focus on nonchain retailers, the quality of the design, and the large number of restaurants and food tenants creates an atmosphere that has attracted a loyal market.
The location beneath and near a large office workforce has been an essential source of demand and customers for the project, especially on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., when many retail locations experience low volume sales.
Mixed-use synergy really works. The retail benefits greatly from the office above, and the office tenants now have much better access to food, retail, and amenities than before, greatly improving the quality of the work environment for building tenants and surrounding tenants as well.
|Original building constructed||1857|
|Building converted to office space||1995|
|Site acquired by JP Morgan Asset Management||2007|
|Office refurbishment planning began||2007|
|Retail refurbishment planning began||2010|
|Construction started||July 2013|
|Project opened/completed||October 2015|
|Land use and building area|
|Site size||1.63 acres|
|Les Docks building||80,000 sq m|
|Building length||365 m|
|Building height||7 stories|
|Office space||60,000 sq m|
|Office tenants||220 companies|
|Office employees on site||3,500|
|Les Docks Village (retail/restaurants)||15,000 sq m|
|Community stores||30% of space|
|Restaurants and food||40% of space|
|Retail occupancy rate||85%|
|Development cost information|
|Site acquisition||€ 200,000,000|
|Total development cost to date||€ 50,000,000|
|Annual office revenue||€ 11,500,000|
|Annual retail/restaurant revenue||€ 4,500,000|
|Total annual revenue||€ 16,000,000|
|Retail/restaurant revenue as percentage of total||40%|
10, Place de la Joliette
Bouches du Rhône
Marseille, France 13002
Constructa Urban Systems
JP Morgan Asset Management
Patrick L. Phillips
Global Chief Executive Officer
Kathleen B. Carey
President and CEO, ULI Foundation
Senior Vice President
Case Studies and Publications
Case Studies and Publications
James A. Mulligan
David James Rose
ULI Global Awards for Excellence 2016 Winner
Note: This case study draws extensively on information and text developed by Constructa Urban Systems as part of the firm’s 2016 submission to the ULI Global Awards for Excellence program.