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    Interview Robert Cramer

    President of the PAV Foundation (Praille-Acacias-Vernets)

    After much political turmoil, the PAV Foundation has finally been brought to the baptismal font in 2019. An indispensable instrument for the transformation of the Praille-Acacias-Vernets sector, as it is responsible for negotiating the future land rights of the main owner of the area (the State of Geneva), this Foundation is chaired by Robert Cramer, former State Councillor and former State Councillor in charge of planning. Meeting and open discussion on the start-up, the issues and the priorities of this Foundation.


    What exactly will be the role of the PAV Foundation?

    The PAV Foundation is at the confluence of two public policies: spatial planning and industrial policy. Planning, because we are governed, framed by specific laws that are extremely detailed, which go so far as to determine the percentage of each type of housing, and which make it possible to impose constraints on future investors that go beyond an allocation plan. Moreover, the PAV is an area in which the usual construction rules of the LCI can be waived, notably by providing for a high density (more than 3 in certain areas) and the possibility of building up to 170 metres high. And industrial policy, because we want to keep existing businesses and find a home in the canton for those that have to move.



    So this means you will be working closely with the FTI, guarantor of the canton’s industrial policy?

    Yes and for several reasons. Firstly, because the law requires us to do so. Article 3 paragraph 4 of the law on the PAV Foundation states that we must enter into an agreement with the FTI.

    The legislator (the Grand Council) has provided for the following architecture: everything that has to do with land use planning is the responsibility of the PAV Directorate, a state department. As for what concerns the relocation of companies, it is the responsibility of the FTI, which we must support in this task.

    The role of the PAV Foundation is to free up the current properties and make them available to future investors, in the form of long-term surface rights (the land will remain in the hands of the State). We are a land operator, devoid of the prorogatives of land use planning which remain with the PAV Directorate.



    Even if the missions seem to be well defined, is there not a risk of competition and duplication between the PAV foundation and the FTI?

    No. We know each other extremely well with Guy Vibourel, the new President of the FTI. I sat with him on the Migros Board of Directors, from which we both of course resigned. I think we are pragmatists. We will be moving into the same building as the FTI, just one floor down. And the State’s PAV Directorate will, I hope, occupy the same premises as us. I would like us all to operate within a project logic, in a common atmosphere. All the back office (HR, IT) will probably be outsourced to the FTI. The common areas will be shared. We will probably open a counter when we are operational.



    Reassure us, you still own some resources in the PAV foundation?

    Of course. We received the land from the state, which is 450 million, and we received an additional endowment of 60 million. Our expected lifespan, again by law, is 40 years. I anticipate that initially the Foundation will be a beneficiary.


    Then, in the second stage, it will probably lose money, as the amounts available will not be sufficient when it comes to compensating the superficiaries who terminate their building rights early.

    And in the third stage, the Foundation will make money back from the new building rights granted to investors.



    Such amounts are likely to whet the appetites of superficiaries in negotiations to buy back their rights?

    Certainly, but let’s not forget that the PAV Foundation and a public Foundation, therefore governed by public law. This means that it must imperatively respect 2 principles: legality and equal treatment.

    One of our first tasks will be to establish a transparent scale for the compensation of building rights, according to several criteria such as the future use of the land (LUP housing, PPE, activities, public domain). We will therefore not be able to make any gifts.



    Certainly, but the current surface rights mostly run until 2050, or even 2060. There is no reason for current holders to rush into anything.

    Yes and no. The compensation depends on the number of years remaining. So it decreases over the years and will become more attractive to the Foundation to wait for its outright extinction, which will not result in any compensation. If there is too much reluctance to release the land, the PAV Foundation and the State will take the time it takes.

    Furthermore, as we are also the owners of the land, this means that the current superficiaries cannot transform their buildings without our authorization. So everyone will make their calculations and everyone will have an interest in finding a win-win solution. There will not be a standard solution, but probably a solution adapted to each company.



    There are probably some areas of the VAP that are more urgent than others?

    One can imagine that the perimeters closest to the city, those where the highest density of housing and more particularly LUP housing are planned will be given priority. The Caserne des Vernets and the Etoile are already on the way, Acacias and Grosselin will follow. In this we will depend on the activity of the PAV department. We will act first in the sectors where the PLQs have been launched. We will then go to all the companies to negotiate with them.



    What types of housing will be built in the VAP?

    The proportions are fixed in law. On all the land owned by the state, that is to say the majority, there will have to be 24% LUP (public utility housing) HBM, 38% other LUP, 26% housing in development zones and 12% PPE.



    The housing sold as PPE will not be freehold, but on long term (90 years) surface rights. Won’t this discourage buyers?

    I think we’ll find enough buyers. Our relationship to property is changing and no one lives in the same home for more than 90 years. As for future generations, they no longer necessarily live in a family home that is passed down from generation to generation.

    The land operations carried out in villa areas illustrate this trend. In fact, the housing will be cheaper to buy but the owners will not be able to realise any capital gain when they resell their property. This type of housing is halfway between the classic PPE and the cooperative. In Great Britain, this system is very widespread.




    The percentage of LUPs is large: do you think you will find enough operators to build them?

    It will be mainly non-profit entities that will build them, Foundations as far as LUP-HBM are concerned, cooperatives for the other LUPs. The financial trade-offs have already been pretty much marked out by the OCLPF (Cantonal Housing and Land Planning Office).



    The transformation of PAV will take another 40 years or so. What can make people want to move there?

    I often say it, we will build the City of the 21th century. It will be dense, diverse, offering a high quality of life. It will take into account climate change in its design. The rivers of Aïre and Drize will be put back in the open air, we want to plant many trees that will protect the inhabitants from the heat. There will be bicycle paths and the parking lots will be on the outskirts of the perimeter. Moreover, the PAV is huge: 230 hectares. At the end each neighborhood (Acacias, Grosselin, Praille, Vernets, Etoile) will have its own identity.



    Will the PAV foundation also intervene in public spaces?

    Of course! We will be very attentive to this in the conclusion of the PDDs. Usually public spaces are the poor relations of the development. We will reverse the trend: first a large park, then housing.

    The PAV will have a very high density, so the more people there are, the better the public spaces must be. In addition, we will have to use all the tricks to preserve ourselves from global warming, capture heat and humidify the air. Future constructions will have to integrate these types of elements, vegetated facades, solar panels, etc.


    Article to be found in the CI Mag n°11 (pages 56-57)


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