January 5, 2015 / 3:15 PM / 5 years ago

LVMH's revamp of La Samaritaine Paris store hits fresh snag

PARIS, Jan 5 (Reuters) - A Paris appeal court dealt a fresh blow on Monday to the long-delayed 470 million euro ($559 million) makeover of Paris department store La Samaritaine, a landmark building owned by luxury group LVMH.

In its final ruling, the court confirmed a May 2014 administrative court decision revoking the permit to renovate a portion of the 145-year-old building, closed since 2005, an LVMH spokeswoman said.

La Samaritaine will now appeal to the Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, she said. The city of Paris said in a separate statement that it would also join in the appeal.

The renovation, entirely funded by LVMH, owned by France’s richest man, Bernard Arnault, is intended to transform La Samaritaine into a multi-use 70,000 square-meter complex with a luxury hotel, designer stores, duty free shops and office space.

The revamp aims to lure wealthy shoppers, particularly Chinese tourists, away from retail hot spots like the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores, and it has drawn passionate reactions from both opponents and supporters.

The store, founded by Ernest Cognacq, a travelling salesman who had been hawking his wares on the nearby Pont Neuf, Paris’ oldest bridge, sits close to the Louvre museum.

La Samaritaine, which has a landmark Art Deco facade overlooking the Seine river, was closed in 2005 to meet safety rules and was supposed to reopen in 2013 after a major renovation.

Two associations - The Society for the Protection of Landscape and Aesthetics of France (SPPEF) and SOS Paris - went to court, however, claiming the project did not respect Paris’ visual character.

In May, work was halted after a Paris administrative court withdrew the permit to renovate a section of the building located on the Rue de Rivoli in the heart of Paris.

The decision was taken on the grounds that the wavy, etched-glass facade proposed by Japanese architects Sanaa did not meet local planning requirements and was out of character with the surrounding buildings.

In October, the Paris appeal court ruled work could resume pending Monday’s verdict. ($1 = 0.8407 euros) (Editing by James Regan)

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