Toulouse. Towards a first-class burial for the Auditorium project at the ex-prison?
Through David Saint Sernin
updated 21 Oct 21 at 14:22
Will we one day see the creation of a Auditorium in the building of the former Saint-Michel prison a Toulouse ?
The campaign promise of the mayor of the Pink City, Jean-Luc Moudenc, dates back to 2014.
A city of music
Reelected in 2020, the city councilor, in his program, still exposed the same proposal to “enhance the former Saint-Michel prison by designing a City of Music with a new auditorium of 2000 seats for our orchestra”.
In recent months, it has been very clear: “This will not be done within the framework of this mandate (therefore not before 2026, editor’s note)”.
But will it just happen? Not easy.
The ex-prison on sale since 2011
Small reminder of the facts: since 2011, the State, owner of the former prison, has shown its intention to sell the building.
First set at € 11.2 million, the sale price has been lowered to 5.5 million in 2019, following discussions between the State, the City of Toulouse and residents.
A project combining culture and housing
This new price of 5.5 million euros was based on the choice of a specific project including the auditorium, located between two preserved branches of the “star” kept at the back of the former prison (currently , the building is composed of five star branches, editor’s note) but also two buildings of six floors extended these two branches arranged.
An important step but insufficient by the admission of the mayor of Toulouse, Jean-Luc Moudenc, at the time. According to him, an agreement remained to be found on the financing of the auditorium project.
No purchase of the ex-prison without having financed the auditorium
At the time, Jean-Luc Moudenc did not want to position the community on the purchase of land and buildings without having first completed a round table for the cultural project. This is what he said to Toulouse news :
I will not buy this building from the community if the auditorium project is not funded. A financing plan between the Metropolis, the State, the Region and the Departmental Council must be shared. This will be the subject of future negotiations, which I cannot say whether they will be concluded in three months, in six months or in a year. The objective is nevertheless to quickly agree and include this financing plan in the next State-Region plan contract.
No longer a priority in the context of covid
Two years later, the “shared financing plan” does not exist. Meetings have indeed taken place with the State but the covid-19 crisis has passed through there and the file does not appear at the top of the pile of concerns.
Asked a few days ago by Toulouse news, the mayor of Toulouse assured to do the necessary so that this file succeeds and that a financing plan is recorded. While not showing great optimism about the possibility of finding a short-term financial deal:
“With the crisis, the State has a financial problem and it will find itself faced with trade-offs to be made. At present, he has not given any details on how he wishes to participate in this Auditorium project… ”
Not in the Plan-State-Region Contract
This hoped-for participation of the State should not take place within the framework of the State Region Plan contract 2021-2027 which must be signed in the coming weeks and which foresees 5.7 billion euros of investment, including 2.9 billion committed by the Region and nearly 2.8 billion by the State.
This contract, which will finance “the economic rebound, ecological transition, social and territorial justice, solidarity, the fight against discrimination” will not finance the City of Music and its auditorium, indicates the Occitanie Region which specifies that ” the Auditorium project was not, within the framework of the State-Region contract-plan, prioritized and proposed by Toulouse Métropole ”.
Local residents call on Jean-Luc Moudenc
While the project on the site of the former Saint-Michel prison is visibly at a standstill, the residents put pressure on Monday, October 18, 2021.
They sent an open letter to Jean-Luc Moudenc in which they ask the councilor “to submit the acquisition of the former Saint-Michel prison on the basis of the sale proposal by the State for an amount of 5.5 million euros to the municipal or metropolitan council, depending on the competent authority, by the end of 2021 ”.
The residents continue:
While the community can become the owner of the site of the former Saint-Michel prison since 2019, despite your re-election, nothing has still happened (…) stop the damage, start opening the site to the public with transitional activities, move forward on the Cité de la musique project. (…) Would you prefer to let this exceptional heritage deteriorate even more and wait for the State, without a response to its offer to sell to the community, to end up turning to private developers to sell the site? “.
The memory recalled at Castelet
However, everything is not at a standstill on the site. For almost a year now, the Castelet of the former prison, the building with its two towers, which opens directly onto the main rue Saint-Michel and which housed the prison administration, has been open to the public.
This place of memory addressed the history and memory of Saint-Michel prison, from its origins to its decommissioning.
In 2013, the State ceded it to the City of Toulouse for a symbolic euro, with a view to making it this place of memory.
The town hall has the management for another 91 years, that is to say until 2112.
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