Montreal, Quebec agree to build Cavendish extension, Blue Bonnets housing
Jason Magder, Montreal Gazette
More from Jason Magder, Montreal Gazette
Published on: June 6, 2017 | Last Updated: June 6, 2017 6:51 PM EDT
The city and province reached a deal to both develop the former Blue Bonnets site, and extend Cavendish Blvd.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Finance Minister Carlos Leitão announced Tuesday the province will cede the former horse-racing track near Jean-Talon St. and Décarie Expressway that the city initially sold to the province in the 1990s.
On Tuesday, Leitão said the government is handing over the land to the city. The city pays nothing up front, but must give the province half the profits of land sold on the 43.5-hectare property. The agreement holds the city responsible for demolishing the Blue Bonnets race track and clubhouse. The city will build as many as 5,000 housing units in the sector with 15 per cent dedicated for social housing rental units, and 15 per cent for affordable housing units.
The agreement gives the city five years to present a development plan to the province and six years to start selling the first housing units. The project will be the subject of public hearings before a final plan is set.
“Rare is it that we have an opportunity to plan a community from A to Z, and we can do this now because we own all the land,” said Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough Mayor Russell Copeman. “We have the opportunity to create a model community.”
Copeman said the development will focus on sustainable transportation, like public transit and bicycle lanes, and probably will include a new school.
Part of the agreement is that the Cavendish Blvd. extension be built from the north end of Côte-St-Luc to St-Laurent. However, the plan isn’t for the new boulevard to serve as a pure alternative to the Décarie Expressway.
“We know the traffic problems at Décarie and Jean-Talon, but we feel we can design a community that’s largely based on public and active transit that will not contribute to chaos in that area,” Copeman said.
Côte-St-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein agreed, but said the new road will help some of his residents access the centre of the city and the Namur and de la Savane métro stations.
“This is excellent news, because the construction of Cavendish is a condition to the province ceding the land,” Brownstein said. “This will be another access out of Côte-St-Luc, as an alternative to Fleet Rd., but for people who don’t use Fleet now, I don’t see it being very exciting.”
Executive committee chairman Pierre Desrochers said the city plans for the first phase of the Cavendish extension to be built — from Côte-St-Luc to Décarie Blvd. — at the same time the first housing units are built. The timing, however, depends on negotiations with CN and CP to build over or under the train tracks that cut through the proposed project.
“We have a deadline of six years to start selling the land, so we have to respect that,” Desrochers said, adding the public will get a chance to have a say on the Cavendish extension when it is presented to the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement.
The province has not yet committed to help defray the cost of the road extension, last estimated at $125 million.
Rick Leckner, a long-time traffic observer who attended the announcement Tuesday, said he doesn’t see how the Cavendish extension will alleviate traffic that can be caused by adding 5,000 more housing units to the already clogged sector.
“The route is not clear, and I wish they had given us more information,” he said, adding that whatever form the extension takes, it will likely be helpful for people transiting between the West End and the West Island. “I think more than 50 per cent of the people who go east to get to Décarie would rather go north to get to (Highway 40).”
As for the housing project, activists who attended the announcement said they were disappointed with the city’s pledge to help out those with lower incomes.
“The transfer of the land is good news, but what is not as good news is the proportion of social housing,” said Jennifer Auchinleck, a spokesperson for Community Development Corporation of Côte-des-Neiges.
She said housing groups have been asking for 2,500 social housing units, far off from the 750 rental units planned for the site.
Auchinleck said she hopes to persuade the city to add more social housing to the project during public hearings.