The project

A living laboratory to cultivate the city of tomorrow

The Cité Maraîchère is designed to meet the major social challenges in the territory (food, health, employment, education, social ties) and is a new public facility focused on innovation and the needs of residents.

Located in the heart of the Marcel-Cachin district, requalified between 2007 and 2017 as part of a vast urban renewal program led by the National Urban Renewal Agency (ANRU), the Cité Maraîchère will soon open its doors and offer:

  • Healthy, fresh and local products to the residents.
  • Educational workshops adapted to all audiences (schools, families, professionals, etc.).
  • Educational, culinary, scientific and cultural events.
  • Moments of encounter, learning and experimentation.
  • A café-canteen serving organic, local and fair-trade products.
  • Training courses.
  • Job opportunities in diverse and meaningful fields.

The Cité Maraîchère is a systemic and multifunctional project that is unique in France. It will bring together in one place the activities of market gardening,  composting, catering, sales, gardening, educational activities, experimentation and training. By having the necessary resources to feed its own system on-site, the Cité Maraîchère will materialize the virtuous concept of circularity.

As a new public service for the residents, the Cité Maraîchère will offer prices adapted to the income of the local population: prices of products, activities, meals and drinks at the café-canteen, etc. The schools of Romainville will benefit from workshops and the provision of space and equipment. Finally, residents and local associations as well as public bodies and social actors, sustainable food and environmental protection sectors will also have access to the spaces and facilities.

A variety of activities – market gardening production, eco-activities, catering and reception, sales and service – and career discovery courses will be offered to about fifteen unemployed people in a work integration project involving the Cité Maraîchère and the solidarity grocery store of the new Eco-solidarity House in Romainville.

The City, which owns the building and is the project owner, has chosen to set up a municipal board to operate this new public facility. After Mouans-Sartoux, Vannes and Firminy, Romainville’s agricultural board is the first to be launched in a dense urban environment and in the form of an integration project carried out by the City.

The building, its operation and the activities that will be carried out there are designed in an ecological way: use of rainwater for watering agricultural production, crops grown on substrates composed of urban waste, no synthetic chemical inputs, use of certified organic seeds and plants, natural light, heat and ventilation in the production stages, intelligent bio-climatic management of the crop areas backed by a mini weather station to optimize settings, sorting of organic waste and installation of a neighborhood composter, wood boiler for spaces where the public gathers, use of cork for insulation, reinforced thermal and solar protection, greening of outdoor spaces, café-canteen furniture made from recycled materials…

The agronomic model that will be developed in the Cité Maraîchère has no equivalent today. As a “low-tech” building, the only technological part will be the building envelope and the control of the openings, solar shading and watering. All the rest of the model will use simple materials and processes that do not use any synthetic chemistry (growth medium –substrate– made from urban waste reconstituting a “soil”, organic amendments based on compost and vermicompost), no LEDs, no heating (natural light and heat from the greenhouse), no air conditioning (ventilation through the openings and air circulation system). Energy consumption will therefore be minimal.

The Cité Maraîchère project attempts to respond to the challenge of food justice by promoting access to fresh and quality produce (rich in vitamins, nutrients and without chemicals) for the entire population. Indeed, the creation of a public service will allow the establishment of rates adapted to the income of each person, so that the cost is no longer an obstacle to the purchase of these products.

In order to develop this project with its multiple innovations –agronomic, architectural, social and governance– the City has surrounded itself with experts who will support it in the design of the operating project and has supported it throughout its implementation, each in their own area of expertise: agronomy, urban agriculture, employment, education, food waste and ecology. These experts work in research institutes (AgroParisTech, INRA, IRSTEA, Astredhor), public institutions (EPT Est Ensemble, Department of Seine-Saint-Denis, Greater Paris Metropolis, Île-de-France Region, DRIEE), educational institutions (local schools, Gustave-Courbet Middle School, Romainville’s High School of Laboratory and Health Trades, Montreuil’s Horticulture and Landscape Trades High School, IPAG Business School), associations (AFAUP, Together for Employment, Lab3S), Social and Solidarity Economy structures (Baluchon, Moulinot, Cultivons la Ville, Espaces, UpCycle-La Boîte À Champignons, Chantier École), companies (Florentaise, CMF). These experts are also involved in working groups set up to measure, monitor and improve the local impact of the project on four key themes: employment, education, agronomic techniques and communication.

The issues that the Cité Maraîchère is trying to address do not exclusively concern the city of Romainville. Cities and suburbs, which are home to a growing proportion of the world’s population, are reducing agricultural land, artificializing the soil and degrading its quality, thus undermining food security. The new model developed in the Cité Maraîchère must be established with a vision of being transposed to other territories in the future, whether in terms of its agronomic and social aspects or its mode of governance. The collection of various data throughout the implementation of the project and their availability are therefore essential (open data principle). Moreover, the processes used as well as the data and results derived from the activities of the Cité Maraîchère, a public project of general interest that relies on public research and public partners, cannot be patented or privatized.

A partnership project par excellence, the Cité Maraîchère will also become a place for experimentation and practical work for educational establishments (schools, middle schools, high schools and particularly in specialized fields such as horticulture, agriculture, laboratory, health and social studies), and will welcome higher education trainees.

This project is in line with the public policies already implemented in the municipality. Indeed, it has been designed in a systemic way to be integrated into existing activities. The City has created a system to allow residents to garden in public spaces; gardening spaces have been installed in schools; composting is being developed in neighborhoods, condominiums, housing, businesses and public buildings; the Romainville CCAS (Community Centre for Social Action) organizes gardening workshops for retirees, intergenerational gardening workshops for young children and workshops to teach the beneficiaries of the guaranteed minimum income to make their own hygiene and household products, to use leftovers from the fridge, to reduce their consumption, to garden at home; the Municipal Health Center offers programs to combat overweight, combining sports activities with dietetic and physiotherapeutic monitoring; health courses have been created. Finally, in 2020, the City will also inaugurate an Eco-solidarity House including a social and solidarity grocery store. This will be supplied with fresh fruit and vegetables by the Cité Maraîchère and will be part of the integration project carried out by the City of Romainville.