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Polygone Riviera gets greener with a new nature park and river trail

Built over the Malvan river, the outdoor shopping centre made nature a part of its design. Now the eco riverbank trail and Malvan park landscaping phase is underway.

A rendering of the planned trails along the Malvan banks. c. Polygone Riviera

Big environmental news at the Polygone Riviera shopping centre! Since its opening 6 years ago, the centre has always had a plan for the green spaces that line the banks of the Malvan river that runs through Cagnes-sur-mer. However, the embellishment and natural landscaping phase was set for a later date and it has finally been initiated.


Visitors to the Polygone Riviera may have already noticed the willow trees when crossing the footbridges, but the green spaces are about to get a lot greener, with a new park and very specific, native, and wildlife-encouraging plants. More than €500,000 has been invested for the study and creation of the natural area, working with local environmental protection agencies, water conservation specialists and city administrators. The investment scover a period of 3 years, from 2020 to 2023.


The concept

A natural and educational trail is the newest stage in the shopping centre’s integration into the environment. This trail will eventually become a 1,100 km of walkway weaving through the outdoor centre. The trail is part of the embellishment of the Malvan banks, plus the creation of Malvan Park, a place for visitors and families to enjoy a natural area while doing their shopping.


The project is part of an educational and ecological approach; a CSR approach in line with the URW Group's strategy for a mixed-use leisure centre. Planting is set to begin in November 2021, with subsequent landscaping phases in accordance with the changing seasons. The new park is scheduled to open for the summer of 2022.


From the outset, the Polygone Riviera has been designed around the Malvan river and offers nearly 1 hectare of landscaped and green area, a landscaped park with more than 1,200 trees and their "flower meadows" contribute to the biodiversity of the site.



Designers of the Polygone Riviera intentionally made it as a natural extension of the surrounding urban area that blends harmoniously into its environment, subtly blending modernism and tradition. Water was a key element in the design, not only with a beautiful ‘river that runs through it’, but also as a precious resource that is carefully managed using water-saving devices and efficient control systems to detect water leaks and cut off water to unused areas.


The beauty of its green spaces is in keeping with the centre’s ecological footprint. Reducing energy consumption, rationing the use of natural resources and reusing wastewater are therefore part of the project's foundations. Additionally, the construction of an open-air centre limits the need for air conditioning and makes the most of natural light to reduce the need for artificial lighting.



The variety of plants for a thriving ecosystem

The gardens of the Polygone change with the seasons. In spring, the flowering of dicotyledonous herbaceous plants (borage, wild gladiolus, gesce, clover) mingle with a variety of grasses until the end of the summer, creating a delicate area of wildflowers and providing a playground for butterflies and other polinators.

In winter, the willow trees along the banks (Salix purpurea, Salix alba...), with their red and white trunks, highlight the walkable trail and the many other trees with colourful trunks: the Cinnamon Maple (Acer griseum), whose bark peels off like a second skin; the Tibetan Cherry with its graphic, zebra-like bark; and the European Birch, whose skin gives a particular glow to the space where it stands.


The Malvan development project

Water is the starting point of the project, with the Malvan river taking centre-stage. Instead of re-routing the river, the project aims not to intervene in the riverbed and maintain the natural flow and dimensions of its current course. This also complies with the regulations of the French water laws.


The next step is the restoration of the riverbanks, which remains within the framework of landscape engineering. The most important step here is the installation of ground cover, acting as the bedrock for all over plants to thrive. Supplemented by wicker cuttings, these groundcover beds will allow the plants to establish themselves and develop a powerful root system ensuring the natural stabilisation of the riverbanks. Also, an important role in flood prevention when the river swells.


As the water flows, other projects applying landscape engineering techniques will be implemented. The protection of the banks by the root system of the willows will make it possible to fix the banks and limit natural erosion, again by the principle of root development of the plants.


Walking trails

The banks will accommodate two footpaths. Always set back from the river so as not to modify its course, the foot paths will follow the existing topography by adapting to it. On either side of the banks, two different types of paths are planned, the first on the left bank will be made up of a compacted earth and stone mixture, while on the right bank a path will be laid out in the middle of the grassy layer. Two different types of management for two types of atmospheres in the park.



Flora and fauna

The protection of flora and fauna is a major societal issue that is part of the Malvan landscape project. Even after 6 years of the centre’s daily use, the presence of bulbous comfrey (Symphytum bulbosum), a protected species, is evidence of the preservation of the natural environment. It helps to orient the project in the direction of preserving the plant heritage and contributes to the development of a landscape project that respects the site and its environment.


The Cinnamon Maple (Acer griseum) has been planted in the upper part of the banks of the river for a number of years. This gives a stability to the root system along the banks and provides food and shelter for important bugs with its bark that peels off like a second skin. The other trees also contribute the eco-system and to our own enjoyment from their interesting appearance. The Tibetan cherry with its graphic, zebra-like bark, and the European birch, whose skin gives a particular glow to the area where it is installed, are a few examples of the varieties planned for the project.


For the birds

The connection between plants and wildlife remains important for the developers. They want to encourage plants that can create an ecological corridor for our winged friends. The League for the Protection of Birds will be involved in the project and their advice and recommendations will play a major role in the choice of plants. As in a wild setting, all the plant strata will be represented in order to favour the fauna. The herbaceous plants will allow the development of a wide range of insects which will feed a specific fauna, the shrubs will provide additional food with their berries, favouring the habitat with the trees. Keep a lookout for ‘insect hotels’ where kids can marvel at all the bugs burrowing and working away. These are fabulous for encouraging beneficial species, which in turn keeps nuisance bugs at bay.


Usability issues

Finally, the Malvan river project has an educational aspect that will be emphasised. The aim is to draw attention to the importance of ecology and the preservation of the environment, and to draw the visitor's attention to the capacity of the fauna to integrate into the environment. This is achieved through the installation of birdhouses, insect "refuges", explanatory panels, and a set of signs aimed at conveying the message of nature preservation outside the site. As an exhibition and demonstration site, the park can become a vehicle for environmental communication and plant science.

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