The Changing City
As part of Montreal’s intent to revitalize the downtown core, a strategic urban plan designed to redevelop several underutilized areas surrounding the downtown core was put into motion in the spring of 1999. The catalyst to this master plan was the repositioning of the area between Old Montreal and the financial district. The Quartier International or International Quarter was conceived and became the focus of intense development. Fueled by both government and private spending in the realm of 3 Billion Dollars, the area was successfully redefined as the international district - an integral part of the City’s long term plan to position Montreal as one of North America’s most prominent locations for international business.
With large investments to infrastructure, the redevelopment of this dilapidated area allowed Montreal to bridge the gap between the Old Port and the majority of the city’s other major metropolitan districts. Both above ground and through the concourses that form Montreal’s vast underground network, the Quartier International and the Old Port were linked together and subsequently, are now connected with the entire downtown core.
With the restoration of Square Victoria, the addition of Place Riopelle, and the installation of urban art, new sidewalks, public fixtures, and the influx of new offices, restaurants, boutiques, and hot-spots, the area has become one of the most desirable districts, both commercially and residentially, in the entire city.
The enormous success of the Quartier International, from an urban planning perspective, can not be over stated.
Building on the momentum created by the Quartier International, the city turned its focus towards the undervalued area directly adjacent to Place des Arts and quickly activated Phase 2 of their master plan. A 2.7 Billion dollar redevelopment of the performing arts district or the Qaurtier Des Spectacles, was put into motion in 2009. With completion expected in 2016, the 8 square block area surrounding Place des Arts will be totally transformed seeing the development of a new opera house, new theaters and the creation of multiple spectacular outdoor venues.
As these two redeveloped zones have been effectively be linked via Bleury street, the broad spectrum results of these developments are already producing radical change to the eastern extremity of the downtown core – even though phase 2 is still in its infancy.
As further measure to the transformation of Montreal’s downtown, many residential projects can now be found where none existed before, established primarily to satisfy the demand for high-end dwellings the increased business traffic has created. Examples of these residential projects can be seen in a secluded corner within the Quartier International known as the Unity District - The heritage area surrounding Saint Patrick’s Basilica once known as Paper Hill.
In addition to the above, and benefiting from the refurbishment of the Lachine Canal, the creation of parks along the canal’s length, and the restoration of the Atwater Market, the region to the south of the downtown encompassing Griffintown, Saint-Henri, Little Burgundy and Point Saint-Charles, otherwise known as the Centre-Sud, has become an area of extreme interest due to its long term potential. Having been incorporated into the City’s master plan as the central component in a massive redevelopment effort designed to reintegrate the downtown core with the canal and the St-Lawrence river, The Havre de Montreal project, as has been heavily promoted by city officials since 2010, will ultimately see the fusion of the Centre-Sud with Verdun to the west and the Cite Multi-Media and Old Port to the east. Over and above the main objective to facilitate the southern expansion of the financial district along Rue University, considerable emphasis has been placed on the development of suburban like neighborhoods within the immediate vicinity of the city centre. It is for this reason that the Centre-Sud has been given such importance and can be regarded as vital to the continued growth of Montreal as a whole. It should be understood that the ability to attract owner-occupiers and families back from outlying areas so as to reverse the speculation trend and compensate for extreme circulation problems in and around the city is now of critical importance.
Currently, there are roughly 150,000 individuals who make the daily commute to their employment within the downtown region, and due to the present state of the infrastructure surrounding Montreal, entering the city from areas such as Kirkland, Point-Claire, Beaconsfield, Dollard-Des-Ormeaux, Roxborough, Ville Saint-Laurent, and the South Shore, is extremely difficult – under the best of circumstances. Given the poor capacity and inefficiency of the commuter trains and lack of sufficient “out-of-city” locations along the metro system, these individuals are largely forced to drive to work. The effects are of a compounding nature in that this influx of cars creates more traffic and more congestion. While the Havre project, which involves the removal of the Bonaventure Expressway overpass and the redevelopment of the 720-Interchange, will succeed in offsetting these problems in the long term, the issues mentioned above are only expected to increase during the next 10 - 15 years. In addition to this, the redevelopment of the A-20 / Turcotte Yards (expected to begin in the spring of 2014), will make matters significantly worse for those entering from the West Island, Ville Saint-Laurent and even Laval.
Recognizing that these commuter problems are affecting both the stability of their work environments and the quality of their family time, many of the individuals identified above have begun the process of relocating closer to the downtown, however, due to the general speculation nature and first-time home buyer positioning of the vast majority of the projects both proposed and in construction, this demand will continue to go largely unaddressed. It is very important to understand that while this relocation will require certain compromises, access to services, proximity to green-spaces and the overall atmospheric quality of the specific location chosen will not be among those made. Simply put, speculation style projects or projects directly within the financial district of downtown will not address this demand and therefore, can not easily be repositioned to do so.
This having been said, due to its geographic location along the Lachine Canal and due to its current ability of supporting a more owner–occupier family oriented clientele, the Point Saint-Charles and the Centre-Sud are the ideal locations for the developmental approach outlined in the concept section of this prospectus.