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Interview: Séverine Chapus, Head of Development for Major Mixed-Use Projects


Séverine Chapus has recently joined BNP Paribas Real Estate as Head of Development for Major Mixed-Use Projects. Here she explains what a mixed-use project looks like and what kind of strategy she’ll be putting in place.

Can you tell us about your career path?

I’ve always worked within the property sector for cities, starting my career working for Bouygues Construction. I then went on to work for a government agency which focused on urban redevelopment, and then took on a role whereby I led investment funds linked to urban innovation for the last French government. Before joining BNP Paribas Real Estate, I worked for Dassault Systèmes, helping them drive forward their digital city projects.

Why did you decide to go into the city property sector?

I have always been interested in the idea of the city, in all its forms; the architecture, urban development, public policies and how we live and work within a city. It’s a subject I’ve been passionate about for a long time, so I’ve strived, throughout my career to gain experience in this area from lots of different standpoints.

Real estate Property Development was a way to really get to the core of this subject and with my role as Head of Development for Major Mixed-Use Projects it’s the occasion for me to take on this kind of approach.

Why did you take on the role of Head of Development for Major Mixed-Use Projects?

I took on this role in order to discover a new area within my realm of expertise. Property Development is really all about the fabric of a town or city so it was really interesting for me to take on a job which allowed me to be in the centre of this area of activity.

What also convinced me was BNP Paribas Real Estate’s vision, which envelops all real estate trades, and champions new mixed-development projects. BNP Paribas Real Estate is a group which has the means and drive to attain its ambitions and that was really important for me.

Coming from a background where I have gained experience within the different specialities of real estate has been a huge benefit for me and means I come to this job bringing well-rounded experience, allowing me to have a great vision of mixed-use development projects and how they can be implemented.

What will you be doing in your new role?

In my new role I will be positioned within the Property Development team, specifically for large scale projects within an urban area that have a mixed-use objective. My role will be to identify BNP Paribas Real Estate’s future projects and secondly, once these projects have been identified, to respond to calls for tenders or contests that might be launched which we want to take part in.

Can you tell us what a mixed-use project is exactly?

A mixed-use project is defined by the fact that in terms of usage there is a whole variety of ways people can interact with an area or neighbourhood within a town or city. This isn’t just about one isolated building that mixes residential with offices but it impacts a whole area of a city, blending housing with offices and commerce and creating greater interactivity between residents and workers within the neighbourhood.

How do you start a mixed-use project?

What of course drives forward the vision of these mixed projects, is ‘why are we doing it?’ and ‘who is it for?’ Naturally, it is the public that benefits from these types of projects, so it’s about understanding what their needs are and how are they going to use and interact with a mixed-used project.

A mixed-use project normally starts from a cultural need or a desire and real estate then responds to that. So it may be redeveloping or reinvented an area that is in need of diversification or as a result of a social change or cultural event. For example the arrival of the Olympic Games in Paris is going to be a huge projects for BNP Paribas Real Estate and as a real estate actor we are going to have a big role to play in the development of Paris and its surrounding areas.

BNP Paribas Real Estate Séverine Chapus

It’s not that we’re changing people’s lives but it’s about creating the services which allow people to live how they want to. This is for all kinds of people so we have to understand how this can be adapted for people of all ages and abilities, who hold different ideas about what an adapted neighbourhood looks like. Success for me in this role is creating a future proofed neighbourhood that respond to everyone’s needs.

Séverine Chapus
Head of Development for Major Mixed-Use Projects, BNP Paribas Real Estate

What are the keys things to think about in such a project?

Longevity is key so our project team must think about how these projects support a community for a day, for a week or in the long term. It’s up to real estate to adapt to these needs and ways of living and offer solutions which support the public, for who we create such projects.

In this way mixed-use projects are not about creating a whole new neighbourhood but more about understanding one area and making it more flexible and able to respond better to the needs and desires of its inhabitants. It’s about transforming what exists and bringing a new life to it. Mixed-use development mainly exists in large cities that are already very developed so the idea of a completely new neighbourhood is not what people are looking for.

Is mixed-use a completely new concept?

No, it’s more about using an idea and changing it so it works for our world and our society now and in the future. If we think of Haussmann architecture in Paris, these building have been adapted to be mixed-use as we see many buildings traditionally used for apartments being used for offices. Thinking about mixed-use and also reversibility has always been a concept that exists.

What is new is the idea of calls for tenders which ask public operators to present their ideas for how areas of a city can be reinvented.

What will be your biggest challenge in your new role?

For me a particular challenge will be to generate sustainable activity for BNP Paribas Real Estate; so identifying medium and long term projects and in the short term, responding successfully to calls for tender.

What is also important is to expand our network of partners as for each mixed-use project, we have between 20-25 partners that we work with. These partners can be involved in a whole range of other projects so it’s important to make contact with new partners in order to drive forward new mixed-use projects and collaborative activity.

What is going to be your strategy in this role?

My strategy is to develop our future projects by understanding the needs of those people affected and to understand new areas where mixed-use could be developed. Once we’ve identified an area and a project it’s about understanding why we want to develop in this area, what do we want to achieve and who’s it for. It’s then about creating the right project team and working closely with the right partners as we know BNP Paribas Real Estate cannot work alone to create a new neighbourhood but must work collaboratively with the best in the industry.

What is driving forward current trends within mixed-use projects?

I think we’re now very aware of the need to be more sustainable and planet conscious which is driving forward the idea of resilience in these projects, so how they can be future proofed.

In order to respond to a need to future proof I think cities will need to be reinvented and readapted in order to withstand changes in the future. It is also the inhabitants of these areas, and particularly young people, who consistently insist on buildings being sustainable and that where they live is green friendly. We therefore can’t create such projects that don’t respond to these desires so the trends we are currently seeing are a result of what people are calling for now.  

It’s not that we’re changing people’s lives but it’s about creating the services which allow people to live how they want to. This is for all kinds of people so we have to understand how this can be adapted for people of all ages and abilities, who hold different ideas about what an adapted neighbourhood looks like. Success for me in this role is creating a future proofed neighbourhood that respond to everyone’s needs.

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