Paris is transforming a historic train station into the world’s biggest “startup campus”

An rendering of Station F’s “chill” zone.
An rendering of Station F’s “chill” zone.
Image: Station F
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A bold plan to turn a historic Parisian train station into a giant campus for tech companies got a boost today after Facebook said it would be among the first tenants, according to Business Insider.

The development is known as Station F, and it will be housed in the refurbished Halle Freyssinet, a train station built in 1929 in Paris’ 13th arrondissement. It will offer 34,000 sq m (365,000 sq ft) of office space for tech companies when it opens in April.

Station F in October 2016
Station F in October 2016
Image: Station F/Patrick Tourneboeuf

Station F’s developers say it will be the world’s biggest “startup campus” when it’s complete, with a plan to house 1,000 young tech firms and accelerators, VC firms, and established companies like Facebook. The development will seriously enlarge the stock of office space used by tech outfits in Paris. Tech companies now occupy 144,000 sq m of space in the city, according to the property consultancy CBRE Research, which means Station F will add 24% more supply to the city.

Paris is just behind London when it comes to employing tech workers in Europe. It has over 383,000 tech workers, to London’s 430,000. But there appears to be an appetite for more tech activity in the City of Lights. CBRE Research found that Paris had the greatest demand for office space among the 68 European cities it surveyed.

The Station F plan has already attracted some controversy. Local politicians have proposed naming a street near the development after the late Apple founder Steve Jobs—which hasn’t gone down well locally. Like a real campus, the plan also calls for housing, which will come in the form of co-living spaces for 600 entrepreneurs in three towers, located a few minutes away from the workspace. Updated: Facebook says it will use the space to expand its developer relations program, but didn’t give further detail.

If Station F succeeds, it should enhance Paris’s credentials as a European tech hub, although it’ll be awhile before it challenges London for the crown. Tech firms lease about 10 times the amount of office space in London compared to Paris, according to CBRE Research. The revamped Battersea power station, for example, which will house Apple’s UK offices, comprises 46,000 sq m—about a third more space than station F.