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Interior courtyard of the revamped Minimes barracks.

Interior courtyard of the revamped Minimes barracks.

Photographer: Dmitry Kostyukov for Bloomberg Businessweek
Businessweek
The New Economy

The 15-Minute City—No Cars Required—Is Urban Planning’s New Utopia

From Paris to Portland, cities are attempting to give residents everything they need within a few minutes of their front doors. Can it work—without leaving anyone out?

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The Minimes barracks in Paris don’t look like the future of cities. A staid brick-and-limestone complex established in 1925 along a backstreet in the Marais district, it’s the sort of structure you pass without a second glance in a place as photogenic as Paris.

A closer look at its courtyard, however, reveals a striking transformation. The barracks’ former parking lot has become a public garden planted with saplings. The surrounding buildings have been converted to 70 unusually attractive public housing apartments, at a cost of €12.3 million ($14.5 million). Elsewhere in the revamped complex are offices, a day-care facility, artisan workshops, a clinic, and a cafe staffed by people with autism.