One of Montreal’s foremost experts on urban design says it will be “game over” if developers are given free reign to rebuild the area between the Bonaventure Highway and Victoria Bridge.
Phyllis Lambert spoke Friday about the future of the Bonaventure-Bridge sector — an industrial area targeted by a $2.5 billion project to build 40-acres of condos, shopping centres and a Major League Baseball stadium. She says it’s possible for a stadium to co-exist with a healthy neighbourhood, but the city needs to act as watchdog against rampant development.
“I’m scared for smaller neighbourhoods like this, where a developer can just come in and say, ‘Aha! Let’s make some money,'” said Lambert, an architect and officer in the Order of Canada. “We have a city full of experts; there are four universities and any number of resources to study what the best project is for the area. The city needs to do its due diligence here.”
Lambert presented her case at the city’s public consultations about how to use the 2.5 square kilometre swath of land. She spelled out a worst-case scenario where developers simply razed the historic grain silos, mills and other landmarks to replace them with skyscrapers.
“We cannot have another Griffintown,” said Lambert, referring to the section south of downtown that’s been turned into a hive of condo towers and chain stores. “When you destroy heritage buildings, you destroy memories, you destroy history, you destroy quality of life.”
The night before Lambert’s presentation, businessman Stephen Bronfman presented his vision for a baseball stadium at the heart of Bonaventure-Bridge. He said the project could maximize public transit access, coexist with social housing and inject life into the neighbourhood.
Lambert — also a member of Montreal’s Bronfman family — says the stadium project needs to be tailored to benefit the surrounding neighbourhood of Pointe-St-Charles.
“There have been attempts at doing that in other cities,” Lambert told the Montreal Gazette. “They want to put it there because people will use the new (REM commuter train) to get there. But the problem becomes people will want to use their cars to get there and they cause all kinds of pollution. How do you solve that? There are all kinds of questions.”
In an ideal world, Lambert says a project in the area would be “democratic,” with housing and facilities accessible to people from all walks of life. But her biggest concern, she said, is that any development be carbon neutral.
Bronfman told the city Thursday he wants the stadium to be a “green project” that collects rainwater, uses geothermal energy and works with local food banks to minimize food waste.
The businessman is also working with Devimco on an enormous commercial development project that will eat up roughly 10 per cent of the real-estate in Bonaventure-Bridge.
One of the biggest problems of any project in the area will be accessibility, according to the Sud-Ouest borough’s chamber of commerce. Because the area is hemmed in by rail yards, shipping depots and access to the Victoria and Champlain bridges, residents are “trapped” much of the time, said Anne-Marie Lelièvre, a spokesperson for the chamber of commerce.
She recommended new roads to connect the Bonaventure Highway to Victoria Bridge to avoid traffic jams on Wellington St. Lelièvre also spoke of the bottlenecking caused by limited bridges and tunnels connecting Pointe-St-Charles to downtown.
Plans for the REM commuter train — that will link the South Shore to downtown and the West Island — include a Peel Basin station that would be somewhere in the Bonaventure-Bridge sector. But Lelièvre says more transportation solutions are needed.
“We need to free up workers who are stuck in a transit prison,” she said.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019