Merci Raymond champions nature and cool islands in the city

success story
Merci Raymond champions nature and cool islands in the city
Hugo Meunier, founder of Merci Raymond, an urban agriculture and regreening start-up.
25 July 2023 / Grow your business

The start-up is putting green spaces at the heart of real estate and urban development projects

In 2015, as the United Nations Climate Change Conference was taking place and the objective of greening Paris was taking shape, Hugo Meunier founded the start-up Merci Raymond in the French capital. Buoyed by this forward-thinking environmental movement, his vision for regreening cities was a response to the need for natural spaces in the face of urban densification.

Today, as global warming accelerates, this need has become a necessity. Merci Raymond now has 35 employees, including landscape gardeners, architects, and agronomic engineers, who work together to integrate natural spaces into real estate and urban planning projects. Hugo Meunier set up offices in Marseille in 2022 to capture markets in the South of France, and his company has already landed several significant contracts for projects in the territory that are adapted to Mediterranean climate conditions.

As a result of climate change concerns and a focus on outdoor spaces following the Covid crisis, in recent years, the issue of nature in the city has moved to the forefront of public policy. Local authorities, urban planning agencies, architects, property developers, and real estate companies are all giving green spaces and natural environments an increasingly prominent place in their projects.

Some public spaces are being redeveloped to include more vegetation and new practices such as greening rooftops are becoming widespread. Meanwhile, urban agriculture is becoming a fixture in city neighborhoods thanks to community vegetable gardens. This dynamic green movement is allowing Merci Raymond to flourish.

The heightened passion for nature is also spreading to businesses, hotels, and restaurants. As companies seek to enhance the well-being of customers and employees, Merci Raymond is there to provide customized landscape design solutions.

The start-up’s implantation in Marseille has had a positive impact

Hugo Meunier, the founder and CEO of Merci Raymond, decided to open operations in Marseille in 2022 after identifying development opportunities in the South of France, particularly in Marseille.

“There were no companies like us in the landscaping sector in Marseille. We found that there were a lot of small independents and a few large firms that offered more traditional services. Our Marseille office is running smoothly, and it is a logical step for the company because we can now operate in a warmer climate and tests prototypes for adapting to climate change and higher temperatures,” explains Hugo Meunier, who was inspired by the garden at the Mucem museum in Marseille, which is a model for a resilient and sustainable garden that requires no watering or irrigation.

“We want to accelerate our development throughout the South of France. We have 25 people based in Paris, where we generate most of our revenues, but we want to expand our team in Marseille,” says Hugo Meunier, who is waiting to see the results of the first contracts before recruiting more employees.

Lyon had been an option for the new operations, but Marseille’s central location and the potential for development throughout the South of France convinced Hugo Meunier the city was a better choice. It also allowed his company to forge closer links with the region’s real estate network and public-sector organizations.

When Hugo Meunier first arrived in the Aix-Marseille metro area, he met with Provence Promotion and Euroméditerranée to start identifying a suitable location for the company. Along with another colleague, he eventually chose shared office space in the Now coworking center opposite the Vieux Port in downtown Marseille. He says the company is benefiting from the location’s diverse advantages, such as the local quality of life and the ease of getting to Paris.

First projects promoting green urban planning

Merci Raymond has won a number of major projects in Marseille, notably with Euroméditerranée and Eiffage in the Smartseille 2 green neighborhood. The landscape design company is responsible for developing almost 5000 square meters of green roof space, an urban agriculture project, and green cooling islands, including more than 25% of plots that have been restored to a natural state.

These initiatives represent a genuine contribution to the fight against extreme heat by providing cooler, more pleasant areas for residents while helping to improve air quality and enhance biodiversity.

In a separate call for tenders, Merci Raymond also won a project in La Ciotat to help improve the town center. While private companies are also being targeted for landscaping and greening projects, the need is more pressing for large real estate developments. Urban planning guidelines are likely to evolve to include more green spaces, as in the case of the so-called “bioclimatic” local urbanism plan adopted by the Paris city council at the beginning of June 2023.

Each year, the start-up has seen a 30% increase in revenues, and its objective is to respond to more ambitious tenders, such as the green overhaul of the Saint-Charles train station in Marseille that would be done with a consortium of partners, or the redevelopment of the Allée Léon-Gambetta area in the city center in a project being organized with Caractère Spécial § Matthieu Poitevin Architecture agency.

The return to nature or the preservation of existing natural sites in the city is no longer optional. As cities adapt to climate change, it is becoming essential to recreate green spaces and maintain existing ones. For Hugo Meunier, this transformation is in perfect harmony with his long-held beliefs about the environment. He discovered this world thanks to his grandfather Raymond, an arboriculturist in the South of France who passed on his passion for the plant world and inspired the creation of this start-up with such a bright future.

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