Waterfront project called city's biggest renewal since Expo 67
The Montreal Gazette
Friday, October 07, 2005
Part of the Bonaventure Expressway will be put underground in the proposals for the area.
Parts of the Bonaventure Expressway would be torn up and the old Griffintown district would be revitalized as part of an $8-billion plan that is being hailed as Montreal's biggest urban renewal project since Expo 67.
Former Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard and Senator Francis Fox, co-chairpersons of the Societe du Havre de Montreal, pitched the proposal yesterday to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.
It would cost taxpayers $650 million just to remove sections of the Bonaventure to allow the city to reclaim a strip of shoreline along the St. Lawrence River, but the project's backers say the economic return would be worth it.
The massive project, known as Vision 2025, also would include the relocation of the casino to Point St. Charles from Ile Notre Dame, wholesale development of the Peel Basin, and the introduction of a light-rail transit system that would start from downtown and travel through Griffintown and the Old Port to the east end of Old Montreal.
The Societe du Havre de Montreal is a non-profit organization responsible for promoting development of the city's harbourfront.
It initially unveiled the master plan a year ago.
Two feasibility studies to determine the costs involved have come up with the $650-million price tag for the first phase of the plan. That would reroute sections of the Bonaventure Expressway through a tunnel and turn other elevated sections between University St. and the Peel Basin into an urban boulevard.
The project would require participation by the federal and Quebec governments, however.
"If Montreal is to progress, if it wants to improve its quality of life, if it is to regain its international status, we have to go ahead with this," Bouchard said.
"It's not money lost. The revenues from investment would be considerable."
If the plan goes ahead, the first phase requires demolishing the portion of the Bonaventure Expressway that hugs the river in front of the Technoparc between the Peel Basin and Nuns' Island.
Fox admitted it's a challenge, but he said the work wouldn't be as expensive as it appears.
"Any number of federal programs already exist," he said.
"We're talking federal programs for infrastructure. We are not talking about outrageous amounts of money.
"The project would finance itself due to the economic spinoffs generated by the resulting real-estate development," he added.
"I'm also talking about job creation, and the estimated $2.7 billion in real-estate investments and additional government revenues.
Mayor Gerald Tremblay said afterward: "It's not a pipe dream. If both the federal and provincial governments could together invest $60 million in the Quartier International development (in and around Victoria Square) and realize an immediate $250-million return, its not a pipe dream.
"We now have to convince the federal and provincial governments to change their mindset and stop focusing on the debt and deficits and concentrate on investments that create wealth."
The engineering study was conducted by SNC-Lavalin, and the study on economic spinoffs by Genivar, an engineering and construction company.