Eifel Tower seeks to expand downwards

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The Independent Online

After dominating the Paris skyline for 112 years, the Eiffel Tower is now looking to expand underground.

After dominating the Paris skyline for 112 years, the Eiffel Tower is now looking to expand underground.

In the hope of attracting yet more tourists to France's most famous landmark, the tower's managers have begun drawing up plans to add five extra levels of exhibition and recreation space by excavating beneath the feet of the iron edifice.

Construction surveys have shown that by digging under the 324mtall tower, space could be created for restaurants, shops, a museum, a car park, a congress hall and a cinema.

Last year, 6.4 million people visited the Eiffel Tower, which was erected in 1889 as a temporary monument for the World Exhibition, hosted that year by the French capital.

An official at the Eiffel Tower company said yesterday that the attraction had reached saturation point during the summer season, drawing on average 30,000 tourists a day, and could only welcome in more people by going underground.

The plans envisage a single underground entry point to the Eiffel Tower rather than the existing four entrances located in each foot, and a transparent cupola covering the underground central atrium giving a view of the drop from the top.

"Visitors already come in their multitudes. But the visit is limited to scarcely an hour on average, since around the site itself there is nothing else on offer," the Eiffel Tower official, Luc Echavidre, said.

It is estimated that the project would cost between Fr400m and Fr500m. The plans could be presented to Paris City Hall as early as this autumn, the newspaper Le Parisien said, with excavation possibly starting within 18 months.

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