I held my annual District 2 Town Hall meeting at City Hall on June 5 and our Council Chamber was filled to capacity. This was a campaign promise when I first ran for office in 2005. Now, once a year – more if necessary – I hold these meetings to allow people to get updated in person on issues specifically related to our district. I also urge everyone to follow my website at www.mikecohen.ca. You can subscribe to receive alerts.
There will an election in November and I will be proud to seek a fourth mandate on council.
Last year’s District 2 meeting focused on an issue which residents have asked me about more than any other: The Cavendish/Kildare intersection. The city formed an ad hoc committee which met over a period of many months. Last November we proudly introduced a new split phase configuration. In short, motorists travelling westbound on Kildare are now able to drive through the intersection at Cavendish while traffic in the opposing direction waits. This allows drivers to turn left (or turn right, or go straight) without opposing traffic. To help visualize the change, imagine you are a driver who left the JPPS/Bialik campus and is heading west along Kildare towards the police station. When you approach the traffic light at Cavendish Blvd., you can use the left or middle lane to turn left or the middle lane to go straight. Once we have made the change, the motorists coming from the opposite direction will have a red right, which will allow you to turn left (or to go straight) without having to worry about oncoming traffic.
Likewise, motorists coming from the opposite side now have their chance to move through the intersection without interference, soon after. Just as many vehicles as before are able to pass through the intersection. However, the process is less stressful for many. Pedestrians also appreciate the change because they now have fewer vehicles coming from few directions to contend with. The response I have received from constituents has been overwhelmingly positive.
The Cavendish Boulevard Extension.
The main item on the agenda was the extension of Cavendish Boulevard. My topic, in fact, was “Is the Cavendish Extension Closer to Reality?” I actually began planning this meeting six weeks in advance, completely unaware that the very day of the gathering major news would leak out that yes, the extension was indeed “closer to reality.”
I am 54 years old. As far back as I can remember, the extension of Cavendish has been a regular topic for discussion. The late Mayor Bernard Lang was strongly opposed to it---“We Don’t Need It, We Don’t Want it, We Can’t Afford It,” he’d always say.
Un lien nord-sud par le boulevard Cavendish est l’élément manquant sur le réseau routier de l’île de Montréal. Les premières discussions en vue de relier les deux tronçons du boulevard Cavendish remontent au milieu des années 1960, et des études ont été faites en 1981, en 1988, en 1992, en 1995, en 1996 et en 2000.
Projet de construction de la route donc les objectifs sont :
• La création d'un lien nord-sud de Côte Saint-Luc à l'arrondissement Saint-Laurent
• La création d'un lien est-ouest avec le boulevard Décarie
Le raccordement du boulevard Cavendish lien a le but d'ameliorer l'accessibilite au secteur, pour y entrer, en sortir et y circuler, par tous les modes de transport, et d'assurer des conditions de circulation propices a la prosperite economique et au bien-etre des residents.
The Blue Bonnets land
In 2012 the Quebec Government agreed in principle to cede the 43.5 hectare site of Blue Bonnets Raceway to the City of Montreal in order to build up to 8,000 sustainable residential units. As of the morning of my meeting the province had NOT signed the necessary documents to transfer the land to the city. As I prepared my notes for the meeting I was prepared to emphasize how there was considerable optimism that Montreal complete that deal before the November elections. In order for Montreal to make the housing project work, they need the extension as well.
Well imagine my surprise when I learned that a press conference had been scheduled for the afternoon of my Town Hall wherein the Quebec government would indeed sell the Blue Bonnets land to Montreal. That announcement was postponed to June 6. Wow!!!! What timing!
As Jason Magder reported, Quebec Finance Minister Carlos 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. And indeed part of the agreement is that the Cavendish extension be built. We just do not know when.
The agglomeration council has already earmarked $220,000 for a feasibility study for an overpass in the railway yards. Both Canadian Pacific and CN appear to be on board. So are St Laurent, TMR, the Quebec Government, the Federal Government and yes Côte Saint-Luc.
The cost is estimated at $175 million. It would have been $20 million in the 1980s. Federal Infrastructure Funds will be available. Montreal has even placed reserves on two pieces of land on Cavendish and Dalton, owned by real estate company Olymbec. This bars the owners from expanding or developing this property for two years as it is an essential link to the extension.
There has never been more momentum for this extension, which would see Cote Saint-Luc connected to Royalmount (so not a direct Cavendish to Cavendish route) and then from Royalmount to Cavendish in St. Laurent.
At my meeting Mayor Mitchell Brownstein began by expressing his optimism for the extension, which would lead from Wallenberg Avenue through the CP Yards towards Royalmount. Elisabeth Prass, from the office of D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum, agreed that with the impending announcement regarding the former Blue Bonnets land the timing could not be better to discuss the extension. She added that since these are municipal roads, once any negotiations are complete the provincial and federal governments will get involved.
Rick Leckner has over four decades of experience in corporate communications and crisis management. He established Maison Brison Communications in 1983, providing strategic investor relations, crisis management and media relations services to large, publicly-traded Canadian companies. Prior to that he helped launch public relations firm, Polymark Management in 1973.
He is known for his many years (1969-2000) of providing helicopter traffic reports to Montrealers on CJAD and Mix 96. Rick was proactive in representing the travelling public’s interests, regularly liaising with police and transport officials. In 2011 he was named to Transports Québec’s comité technique sur la mobilité des biens et des personnes and worked with officials in an attempt to mitigate traffic congestion. He is regularly sought after by the media for his insights into traffic coordination.
Rick was also a city councillor in Dollard-des-Ormeaux from 1978-1994, was Vice-President of the Montreal Urban Community (MUC) Emergency Measures Bureau, and has sat on a number of other Quebec Government committees, including the Conseil des services essentiels and the Comité d’examen des plaintes of the Sûreté du Québec.
I go way back with Rick and it was an honour to have him as a speaker on this subject. I vividly remember the debates he had via the media with Mayor Lang on this subject.
“We seem to be moving in the right direction,” Leckner said about the extension. “The funding I am told is in place. The main stumbling block is negotiations with the railways.”
Leckner emphasized that because this will not be a direct Cavendish to Cavendish link, it will not be a traffic hazard for Côte Saint-Luc. If anything, it will resolve the problem we have now of only two exits out of the city – something which would have been very problematic if we were faced with the same flooding as other parts of Quebec experienced recently.”
Leckner’s emphasis was that this project could be complete between 2023 and 2025.
Traffic and Public Safety
Naturally there were a lot of questions. I want to thank Councillors Glenn J. Nashen and Ruth Kovac who attended the meeting and responded to a number of queries. Spyro Yotis, our new traffic engineer and Officer Eduardo Amaral from Police Station 9 also joined us. Councillor Nashen responded to a number of traffic related questions. Councillor Kovac weighed in on the Cavendish extension and previewed the beautiful facelift we gave to Trudeau Park. Officer Amaral was asked by resident Mélodie Cohn about the recent attack on a teenager after she got off the bus on Cavendish and Kildare. The officer said that thanks to her courage, the perpetrator was not only dealt with by authorities, but other victims came forward,
I provided updates on development in the district. 6700 The Avenue opens September1 in Quartier Cavendish. Built by the BSR Group, it will have 90 units and is already half rented with commerce zoned for the ground floor.
Over the last three months our city council has devoted a lot of attention to the new development on Marc Chagall Avenue to be known as the Equinox. In March the developers announced in a letter to residents of the other buildings on Marc Chagall that they intended to work on this project weekday nights and weekends. While this was within their right, according to our noise bylaw which has been in effect for many decades, it was also unprecedented. We have never encountered such a situation with a high rise building.
In April we established an unprecedented ad hoc committee composed of representatives from the five condominium associations – The Rothchild I and II, La Marquise, The Bellagio and Les Cours Marc Chagall. – And the developers. There were a number of concerns raised, starting with the extended hours. Council moved quickly to amend the bylaw prohibiting weekend and weeknight work. We also negotiated terms that required the developer to provide a written undertaking not to contest the amendments to the bylaw in return for their right to work some nights and weekends, but far less than had previously been anticipated. The developers will normally not work past 7 pm on weeknights and from 9 am to 5 pm on occasional Saturdays.
This solution will avoid litigation which could not have been guaranteed otherwise and was felt by the five condominium’s representatives to be the most prudent way to proceed.
Soon the developers will move from excavation to concrete super structure work. From January 2018 until approximately March 2018 work will consist of precast installation. They will need five Saturdays during this period. After that and until the end of July 2018 work will only be done on the interior of the structure.
We are working closely with the developers on a wide variety of other important matters. This includes their commitment to keeping the street clean, maintaining proper safety and working with us to find a better solution for where their workers should park their cars. A special temporary lot will be created on the greenspace between the Bellagio and the Town Houses and turned into a beautiful park after it is no longer necessary for vehicles.
Our departments of Public Safety and Urban Planning have been spending an enormous amount of time monitoring this project and they will continue to do so.
Our Traffic Committee is paying special attention to this area and together with our staff and resident representatives we will continue to work together with the developer to insure that all matters are addressed in a timely manner.
Reconstruction of the City Hall Parking Lot
Long awaited work on the City Hall parking lot will commence soon. The project includes the reconstruction of the sidewalks, curbs, and the asphalt roadway and parking surface, the installation of a bike path between Cavendish and Sir Walter Scott, the replacement of the lighting, the replacement of the security cameras and the installation of a charging station for electric vehicles. The work will be carried out mainly during the summer months (to start at the beginning of July) and is expected to be completed by mid-October.
The contractor is required to carry out the work in phases so that we always have one entrance accessible and approximately half the parking lot available for parking at any one time. We are relocating trees because the configuration of the lot is changing and we are transplanting all those that have a good survival chance.
The new parking lot configuration is being changed to improve visibility, ease of manoeuvre while improving pedestrian safety;
• a new drop-off area will be installed in front of the main doors,
• an elevated section of the roadway (to slow down traffic) will be installed at the intersection of the main roadway from Cavendish and the delivery area at City Hall,
• a new sidewalk will be installed on the City Hall building (south) side towards Cavendish,
• a central sidewalk median will be installed for pedestrians,
• a bike path will be installed from Cavendish to Walter Scott,
• approximately 23 additional parking spaces will be created; presently the capacity of the lot is 120 spaces and we expect to get 143 with the new configuration.