Montreal’s suburban villages: Pointe Claire

Over the course of Montreal’s history, plenty of old towns and villages have been swallowed whole by the insatiable appetite of its suburban sprawl. One of these is the town centre of Pointe Claire, deep within the wilds of the West Island. Although there has been a settlement at Pointe Claire since 1698, the village remains a surprisingly modest affair, no more than a few square blocks of old houses and duplexes, clustered along Lake St. Louis between St. Joachim Church on one side and the Beaconsfield Golf Club on the other. At the centre of it all is a quaint commercial district on Lakeshore Road.

There’s a lot of potential in Pointe Claire Village. It is littered with parking lots that could be sensitively redeveloped with new housing to increase the population density and make it more of a self-sustaining neighbourhood. More attention could be paid to the waterfront, from which the village seems strangely detached. Right now, it’s occupied mainly by a yacht club, parking lots and private church grounds. Along one stretch, between Pointe Claire’s famous eighteenth-century windmill and Alexandre Bourgeau Park, there’s a fenced-off natural beach that could be easily transformed into an interesting space. Keep it natural and build a pathway — or truck in some sand and create a bona fide public beach, like the ones that used to dot the shores of Montreal Island in the 1920s.

Unfortunately, as is the case all too often, municipal regulations seem to be discouraging new investment and development in the village. Last spring, the West Island Chronicle reported that business has declined significantly over the past few years. Merchants blame the town’s new parking requirements, which force new restaurants and bars to provide a certain amount of off-street parking, for keeping new businesses away. There are, however, a few encouraging signs. A new farmers’ market on Cartier Avenue is drawing people to the village. Meanwhile, the local council hopes to develop a nearby vacant lot with a mixed-use residential and retail project.

Check out more photos of Pointe Claire Village.

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