Sustainable Cities™

Dunkirk : a green alternative to suburbanization

Eighty per cent of Dunkirk was destroyed during World War II. After the war, the port has been rebuilt as an isolated place, distinct from the city center. Hit by crisis and deindustrialization, the dockyard winded up closing in 1987, leaving the town with 180 hectares of brownfield. Breathing new life into this derelict industrial site, the Grand Large project aims at transforming this previously isolated zone into an integral and dynamic part of the city.


Launched in 1989, the Neptune Project initiated by the Dunkirk Urban Community was designed to limit suburbanization trend, and to re-orientate the city development towards the inner docks. Situated at only 800 meters from the city hall, between the inner city and the sea, The Grand Large District Project is the second phase of the Neptune Project, and focuses more specifically on sustainable development.

The new waterfront. Photo: Stephane Chalmeau

Shaping an alternative to peri-urbanization
With a relatively high density, the Grand Large District is meant to become an attractive alternative to peri-urbanization. With their gable architecture reminding of the Flemish style, the buildings are designed to be energy-efficient. In addition to green roofs and solar panels, a heat recovery system coming from the Arcelor steel plant will provide 60 per cent of the energy needed.

A special attention has been given to water management: a water leak detection system prevents waste, along with roof valleys and a park water catchment that enable rainwater collection. The site layout gives priority to pedestrians, while motor traffic is strictly limited to buildings access roads.

Inside the eco-district. Photo : Stephane Chalmeau

Social and cultural sustainability
This eco-district is based on principles inspired by Agenda 21, putting into practice the three key elements of sustainable development: environmental, but also social (social mix and mixed-use land) and economic (flexible product use and operational phasing).

Social mixity is reflected in the diverse range of accommodation available: renting or selling, from studio flats to vast apartments. The project will include 40% of public housing and 10% of the offer is intended to first time buyers, while such a quality housing is likely to attract the well-off Malo-les-Bains residents.

Dunkirk Urban Community is also developing a wide range of cultural activities. The Regional Contemporary Art Collections will be re-located in the district by 2013, while the European Center for Leisure and Reception along with a new marina will be inaugurated. New public transportation roads have already been planned to serve this new district. Thanks to these new amenities, the town's inner basins are breaking with their mono-functionality, revitalizing the district, and reconciling Dunkirk with its waterfront.

The Grand Large District from above .Photo:Stephane Chalmeau

The cities of Dunkirk and Saint-Pol-sur-Mer were awarded the Global Energy District Climate Award in 2009 in Copenhagen for their district heating network. This expanding recovery system forms the largest French network today.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 / By Laurent Barelier

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014