The Grignon estate remains the property of the State

Thiverval-Grigon (Yvelines). “This is a decisive step that has just been taken”: In a press release, the Grignon 2000 association celebrates the announcement of the maintenance of the Grignon estate in the public domain as a victory. The question was decided at Matignon, at the end of May, during an interministerial meeting: by abandoning the project of selling the historic AgroParisTech campus to the private sector, the State is adopting a “decision in line with the ambition of Grignon 2000”This group of former students of the leading agricultural engineering school fought to ensure that the built and agricultural heritage remained the property of the State, while the scenario of a transfer to the private sector was becoming clearer with the school’s move to the Saclay plateau, and had been in discussions with State services since September 2023.

A local public university company (SPL) should be created, in which AgroParisTech (for a minimum of 35% of the shares) and local authorities will participate. It will be open to investors in a form of public-private partnership. The economic model should follow the paths imagined by Grignon 2000, such as laboratories that can be rented and spaces dedicated to conferences and seminars. “The economic model is based on the project that we proposedrejoices Mathieu Baron, general delegate of the association. In the current state, there is also a maintenance of the integrity of the site, which was our main demand.” The future SPL will manage the castle, its 300 hectares of gardens and wooded land, as well as 300 hectares allocated to the school’s experimental farms.

The project will take place in two phases: a prefiguration will reallocate the use of the estate to AgroParisTech, before the company created by the school takes over. While the outlines of the missions of this SPL are still vague, the general delegate of Grignon 2000 is hopeful that the idea of ​​a scientific center dedicated to agriculture will come to fruition. The estate’s very rich heritage (a 17th century castle, laboratories from the early 20th century, a century-old arboretum, an exceptional geological site, the collections of the Musée du Vivant, a place of memory for the Resistance, etc.) will also be taken into account: “This part was indeed mentioned by the two inspectors with whom we spoke, and on these points, we will remain very vigilant so that there is no loss of memory,” explains Mathieu Baron.

Uproar over property developer’s proposal

Since the announcement in 2015 of the project to move AgroParisTech to the new university and scientific cluster on the Saclay plateau, the vast estate has whetted the appetite of the private sector. In 2016, the Paris Saint-Germain club was considering setting up its training center in the 17th century castle. In August 2021, the Altarea-Cogedim group won a call for projects launched by the State for the takeover of the site, at the expense of the former students of Grignon 2000, who were in favor of an international center dedicated to ecological transition and agriculture. The winning real estate developer wanted to develop a residential program, providing for new constructions.

Altarea-Cogedim’s proposal then sparked an outcry from local elected officials, Grignon 2000 and heritage defenders, and the State backtracked for the first time by ending this sale project; it launched a new call for projects in 2022. The real estate group nevertheless took the matter to court, contesting the cancellation of the sale.

Last February, the Versailles administrative court ruled in favor of the State, unblocking the case. Instead of a new call for competition, this time the choice was made for a project managed directly by the State. Nadine Gohard’s action (mayor of Thiverval-Grignon) was a determining factor, she did not give up anything regarding the authorization of a new local urban planning scheme which would not take into account the requirements of Grignon 2000 and the residents”, underlines Mathieu Baron.

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