Forget the Paris love nest - buy an investment flat instead

​It needn't be a love nest — a flat near the fast-improving Gare du Nord will give you a door-to-door investment.
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Disused railway buildings north of Gare du Nord are being transformed into an eco-friendly designer zone, a boutique-size French answer to the giant redevelopment around King's Cross St Pancras. The centrepiece is the ZAC Pajol or "integrated development zone", which opened this month. This initiative spearheads the latest round of gentrification of a district with a reputation every bit as unsavoury as the King's Cross of yesteryear.
As with its London counterpart, this once down-at-heel area with a reputation for street crime — close to the Eurostar tracks and on the borders of the 18th and 19th arrondissements — is rapidly gaining an edgy chic. But despite its new-found cachet, property prices remain half those in more central areas. The young, the fashionable, and also people with families are moving in, attracted by the chance of more space for their euros, and the streets are being pedestrianised. Marché de l'Olive, the covered market, is a rising foodie destination with hip new restaurants and wine bars opening.

And local transport links are first rate. France's biggest rail hub Gare du Nord boasts Eurostar, mainline, metro and RER lines just a 15-minute walk or a five-minute cab ride away. For those heading further afield the proximity to the A1 autoroute puts Charles de Gaulle airport within 20 minutes.

£309,800: this one-bedroom flat, near Château Rouge Métro station has a small balcony with views across to Montmatre. On the market with Agence Vaneau (+01 48 00 89 36)
Arty credentials
"I moved in 1999 to a flat overlooking the ZAC Pajol," says Fabienne Herfray, at the local Vaneau estate agency. "The area has changed beyond recognition. There are upmarket grocers opening and another wine bar just the other week. Prices remain low compared to other parts of Paris, at around £4,225 per square metre." Mme Herfray has 67sq m two-bedroom flat on the market for £372,000 with a 19sq m terrace and a parking space. This type of property would fetch well over £820,000 closer to the centre of the French capital.

Cinemas and art centres add to the tempting price tags and transport links as draws for savvy buyers. The canalside MK2 art house cinema nearby was joined recently by the Louxor, a grandly restored Thirties picture house with a roof terrace. But possibly most symbolic of regeneration is the arrival of a UGC multiplex in nearby Boulevard Macdonald.

The Centquatre is a huge, council-run art centre which hosts major exhibitions including a recent Keith Haring retrospective. At weekends the centre, on the site of the old city funeral parlour, is an informal venue for street performers. Also housed there are designer boutiques and highly rated restaurants including Les Grand Tables du 104.

Green flagship
The ZAC Pajol is a green flagship development on a human scale, a combination of renovated railway buildings and low-key new build where the accent is on self-sufficiency. Included in the mix — along with the biggest concentration of solar panels in Paris — are the Václav Havel library and, arguably, France's hippest youth hostel, built from wood and concrete, with 330 beds and a big covered garden. While the zone has a futuristic remit, there are also artisan workshops.

Anglo-French lawyer Tara Pancino, her husband and their two young children are moving to the area — a decision which, she says, saw a few raised eyebrows. "For years it has had something of a difficult reputation. But I am attracted by the mixed multi-ethnic make-up of the area. There have been problems including crime issues but they are cleaning it up a lot."

Ms Pancino, who travels to London at least once a fortnight on Eurostar for work, adds: "There are locals who have lived here forever, plus ethnic communities moving in. There are increasing numbers of Indian and Chinese supermarkets." The family are moving into an 86sq m penthouse overlooking the ZAC Pajol. "We bought off-plan and I will be spending another £30,000 to create the interior look I want, especially my own bathroom."

When they move in next month they will also be a short walk from the Centquatre, which first caught Ms Pancino's eye as a sign that this run-down area was on the way up. She will find, shortly, that the stroll to the arts centre isn't such a walk on the wild side. 

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