As construction crews race to meet the 2024 deadline set by French President Emmanuel Macron for the reopening of Notre-Dame, a jury chaired by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has revealed the winning project for the redevelopment of the area surrounding the cathedral.
The project, estimated at 52 million euros ($54 million), is being led by Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets, with a team composed of urban planning agency GRAU and architecture agency Neufville-Gayet.
The plan, scheduled for completion in 2027, calls for a greener and more welcoming look for Notre-Dame.
"There were three essential points for us: it was to reveal the cathedral, second to improve the connection with the Seine, and thirdly, to multiply the uses through this climatic approach," Smets told ABC News.
A 400-meter long park will emerge along the Seine, where "people will be able to come and picnic [and] play in this magnificent place, between the south facade of the cathedral and the Seine," Smets said. "Behind the cathedral, we will make a very large lawn of 17,000 square meters (4,2 acres), as large as the large lawn behind the Luxembourg Gardens."
The chestnut trees around the cathedral will be supplemented by 131 new trees, including hackberries, maples and hornbeams, as well as alders, and a few oaks -- an homage to the cathedral's oak-made frame that burned in the 2019 fire that damaged the historic structure.
The underground parking garage beneath the cathedral square will be made into a reception center, called "le passage," which Smets said will be able to fit nearly 1,000 people and include luggage storage and meeting rooms to accommodate groups, as well as access to the cathedral's archaeological crypt.
Along the Seine, Smets said that they are going to open the walls of the quays that line the river to provide direct access to the Seine from the passage, which will be "a critical place" in this undertaking.
Cousins Amélie Vieites, 20, from Tours, and Emma Quiquemelle, 19, from Le Mans, hailed the redevelopment while visiting the site on Saturday.
Vieites said that adding trees will be "really good" for reducing pollution, while Quiquemelle told ABC News that "there aren't a lot of green spaces in Paris, so that could make young people want to come and sit down."
Omar Miloudi, 36, on holiday from Algiers, agreed, noting that visiting tourist sites in the summer is "a little too hot" to be "facing this heat."
"It's a great idea!" 47-year-old Brian Astl said of plans for the new greenery. Astl, visiting from Toronto, Canada, with his family, said he was already excited to come back to grounds for a picnic.
Officials say they hope the new-and-improved Notre-Dame will attract 12 million visitors per year, and will appeal to both tourists and Parisians.
The work on the cathedral grounds is scheduled to begin in the second half of 2024.