Drastic changes to Montreal waterfront suggested by local political party
A Montreal political party is proposing a radical renewal of a long-neglected swath of waterfront consisting of brownfields in the city’s east end. Projet Montréal, the party led by urban planner Richard Bergeron, unveiled plans for the site last week. In the 1970s expropriations cleared 5,000 people from their homes in the area after the provincial transport ministry drew up plans for a riverside highway project next to the Port of Montreal. The highway project, which would have cut off the neighbourhood from the waterfront, was never built after vocal opposition by local residents. In 2008, a similar highway project was again proposed by the province only to be shelved again due to local opposition.
“Montrealers are ready for a different vision from these outdated 1950s-style highway plans,” said Bergeron. “All over the world, there is growing recognition of the value and potential of urban waterfront lands. Our plan is to create a new neighbourhood with more than 5,600 homes just a stone’s throw from downtown Montreal. We want to keep young families from leaving for the suburbs and build our city around a transportation infrastructure worthy of the 21st Century, with bike paths, reserved bus lanes and a modern tramway to the east end of the island.”
The plan would see the rejuvenation of riverside parks and public squares that have either disappeared or been left in such bad shape that they have been abandoned: Papineau Square, Place des Patriotes, Parthenais Square and Bellerive Park. It also proposes the creation of a new elevated public space above the port railway tracks, with a boulevard and boardwalk flanked by a high-density residential and commercial development.
“This new district would offer a high-quality urban lifestyle in one of the most beautiful sites in the City of Montreal while offering a new window on to the river for all Montrealers,” Bergeron noted. “Imagine walking on the boardwalk overlooking the river for 4 kilometres, all the way from the Old Port to the east-end neighbourhoods of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve! A development like this would help persuade Montrealers to stay in the city by providing an appealing alternative to the suburban lifestyle, with a high-quality urban environment, fast and modern public transportation and a lot of parks and green space everywhere.”
While Bergeron laid out a more detailed vision for the Montreal Island riverfront, the project would also cover the river’s south shore as well as St. Helen’s Island. These three sites would be linked by an aerial gondola above the river, along the lines of similar projects that have been built in Medellin, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro, London and Portland, Oregon.
About 27,750 jobs would be created in Montreal alone with the Maritime Gateway. ''And if the tramway was manufactured in Quebec, as are Montreal's new subway cars, then there would be even more high-quality jobs created, Bergeron said. ''Montrealers have already waited too long for the opening of a window onto the St-Lawrence in this area. With the Maritime Gateway they would get that window as well as great employment opportunities.''