It is still a very recent city which is about to celebrate half a century of existence. On February 25, 1970, the decree creating the commune of Villeneuve-d’Ascq was published after the merger of the communes of Annappes, Ascq and Flers.
Initially, the town was to be called Villeneuve-en-Flandre, but the name of Ascq was preserved in memory of the massacre perpetrated by the SS in April 1944. In time, it should also be able to merge with Lille as suggested the name of the public establishment – Lille Est – responsible for its creation.
A new city
At the time, for the authorities, this new city must be an example of modernity.
“When the bridge and road engineers designed the city of Lille-Est from 1967, they think that we will be able to plan town planning by district where there would be inhabitants, jobs, services and schools”, explains Sylvain Calonne, president of the Villeneuve-d’Ascq Historical Society.
The primary ambition is then to meet the housing needs. According to the initial plan, “the objective was to make a city of 120,000 inhabitants,” said Pascal Percq, journalist and project manager for the fiftieth anniversary.
To cope with the massive arrival of the baby boom generation in higher education, it must also welcome the new campus of the University of Lille, a logical continuation of the installation of the Scientific City in 1957 south of Annappes .
Progress and some failures
The initial project, however, never went through. In 1983, the State decided, in agreement with the elected officials, to stop the extension of the city. The objective then becomes to create a municipality which does not exceed 70,000 inhabitants. Today, there are nearly 66,000. The creation of this city, however, brought great changes.
“When it was created, there was a huge architectural effort,” recalls Pascal Percq, with “brick and wooden housing from the 1970s”. Another revolution: the arrival of the metro in the Lille conurbation, which was born with Villeneuve-d’Ascq.
A green lung
The other major innovation is the desire to make the city a place to live but also work. At the time “we were talking about the job ratio: one job per dwelling”, recalls Pascal Percq. Several corporate headquarters have chosen to settle in the city while thousands of students come to campus every day.
“On the fringes of the campus, a certain number of companies wanted to hang on to the university,” recalls the representative of the fiftieth anniversary, according to whom the science park of Haute Borne represents “more than 4000 jobs”.
But this progress cannot make us forget more problematic choices. The transformation of boulevard du Breuc into two two-lane roads has notably given a city “crucified by a motorway and a railroad”, laments Pascal Perq.
“We also know the city because it brought a lung”, however notes the journalist “As we did not build the whole city, it has 350 hectares of nature and one of the most jewels of the metropolis: the lake of Heron”.