The Sun King himself might be considered the godfather of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, the sumptuous swathe of Left Bank Paris known today as the 7th arrondissement. When Louis XIV moved the Court to the new Palais de Versailles, nobles left the Marais to settle further west, a location more convenient to the new seat of power.
They built grand mansions called hôtels particuliers with magnificent gardens along the streets parallel to the Seine. Three centuries on, the aristocratic Faubourg is as powerful, privileged and protected as ever. Its historic homes may now house the French prime minister, a foreign ambassador or a bank, but the 17th- and 18th-century architecture and the oases of greenery flourish under the watchful care of the Parisian government and the Bâtiments de France.
Now, a new über development, 140 Rue de Grenelle, has overcome the eight-year challenge of planning permission to offer a revolutionary new Faubourg lifestyle. On a historic site that was once part of the 18th-century hôtel particulier of the duc de Noirmoutier, 17 luxuriously designed residences meld old-world charm with the avant-garde requirements of ultra-exacting 21st-century trophy real-estate aficionados who collect the best properties around the world as other collectors might acquire fine art.
Beyond the freshly painted, dark-green doors of the former carriage entrance on the rue de Grenelle is a protected, private universe. Behind the façades, Paris architect Jean-Jacques Ory has created luminous modern residences within restored structures dating from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. To renovate the landmark façade of the historic apartment building, M. Ory used plans by the duc’s 18th century architect, Jean Courtonne.
New York-based French architect Thierry Despont, whose company is also currently in charge of the Paris Hotel Ritz renovation, designed the interiors. Along with its singular location and architecture, what also distinguishes 140 Rue de Grenelle is its exceptional service, offering a quality akin to a palace hotel.
The 24-hour doorman and security, the concierge, the access to 24-hour maintenance and staff on site and the secure parking that are found in other world capitals are being re-created here in Paris. ‘For the market, it’s a unique project. We’re bringing these constructions into the 21st century, in a very special location surrounded by gardens in the middle of the 7th arrondissement,’ says American developer Mark Shanker.
He’s one of three partners in the joint venture that includes Access Industries (owned by Russian billionaire and American citizen Len Blavatnik) and Italian industrialist Paolo Poma Murialdo. ‘Without a doubt, 140 Rue de Grenelle is setting price records.
Given the prestige of its location and the security, it’s really creating a new benchmark in residential luxury living,’ says Mark Harvey of Knight Frank. ‘With direct access from the garage into each private residence, people can come in fairly invisibly and no one knows they are there.
You have everything that appeals to the sophisticated buyer: the proportions and windows of an old residence, but made with modern materials and technology. It’s the best of the old and new worlds.’
The state of play
‘All five apartments in the historic building on the rue de Grenelle have been sold,’ Mr Shanker reports, but a one-bedroom apartment, visible as the show flat from July 1, has come back on the market for €3.3 million.
Four of the five maisons de ville with private front gardens have gone to French buyers, who account for 50% of all purchases. They’ve been built on a former 1950s structure erected by the Institut Geographique National (IGN), the last occupant of the property. Still available: the smallest two-bedroom maison, priced at €4.45 million.
Five four-bedroom townhouses lie behind restored 19th-century brick-and-stone façades, dating from a military garrison that took over the property after the Revolution. Each has a private front garden and a terraced back patio. An American has bought one house; another is under offer. Still available: three townhouses with living space from 326sq m (3,509sq ft) to 359sq m (3,864sq ft) at €9.96 million to €11.9 million.
La Grande Residence
A four-storey family mansion with large bay windows has been created within a 1930s industrial building that housed the printing presses for the French military’s map division. Later, the IGN used the presses to produce false IDs for Résistance agents during the Occupation.
The mansion is available as a four-storey single family home, with a 1,000sq m (10,764sq ft) garden, priced at €40 million, or it can be divided into two spectacular duplexes. The lower two floors of 364sq m (3,918sq ft), priced at €22.5 million, will inherit the vast garden. The upper two floors of almost 480sq m (5,166sq ft) enjoy a 214sq m (2,303sq ft) deck terrace with a panoramic view of the Paris skyline and are priced at €25 million. In addition, each duplex has a private swimming pool in the basement.
* Follow Country Life magazine on Twitter