Norman Bethune Square’s makeover confirmed

Pretty much anyone who spends time in the west end of downtown will agree that Norman Bethune Square, at the corner of Guy and de Maisonneuve, desperately needs a makeover. Although plans for renovating the square have been floating around for almost three years, there hasn’t been any funding or concrete timeline announced for the project — until now.

Earlier today, the city unveiled new plans for the square and it announced that $22.4 million has been committed to its redevelopment. If the renderings released today are any indication, the new square will be leafy, spacious and almost double its current size. In some ways, though, it won’t be a square at all, at least not in the traditional sense. The plans call for two new plazas to be built on either side of de Maisonneuve, one in front of the Tim Horton’s and another in front of the Guy Metro building.

Norman Bethune Square’s new design will probably prove more effective than the decrepit, pigeon-infested traffic island that has existed since the late 1960s. It responds well to the flow of pedestrians between Concordia’s main buildings and Guy metro, creating a spacious plaza right where the volume of pedestrian traffic is at its highest, and it adds some greenery to a corner that needs it badly.

Construction of the new square will start this May and will continue into 2009. At the same time, the city will widen sidewalks and plant trees along the entire length of de Maisonneuve between Peel and St. Mathieu. This comes as several large new condominium towers and retail developments are infusing new life into this once moribund corner of downtown. After decades spent as a glorified service lane, de Maisonneuve could soon become a pleasant, more relaxed counterpart to Ste. Catherine.

Thanks to Matt Brett for alerting us to this announcement!


  1. Wow, that’s beautiful.

    Does Concordia intend to renovate the side of the metro building adjacent to the square?

  2. Where does this leave the parking lot on the north side of the square? From the sketch you’ve included, there would only be access from the laneway. Hopefully the owners will finally be motivated to develop that lot into something more useful.

    It seems to me that the University at one point wanted to use that lot and the lane between Guy and Mackay to turn the Mackay annexes into one building. The façades on Mackay would remain intact but a handicap-friendly entrance would be included facing de Maisonneuve. My recall of the story is that the owner of the parking lot was holding out, looking to gorge the University of millions. Maybe now that the space has lost viable use as a parking lot (and that the City says it wants to reduce the number of such lots) the Uni will be in a better bargaining position.

    That being said, I can’t find anything about this on Concordia’s building project site. Steve Faguy reads this spot, I believe. Maybe he can add valuable insight to this…?

    At any rate, the plan looks sound. Trees will be a welcome addition, though I would have liked an open space for a terrasse in around the statue itself. The open space that’s along the northwest corner of the GM (Guy metro) building will go to waste unless they relocate the JMSB career planning centre and put in a resto or café.

  3. The JMSB will be relocating to its new building next year so the Guy Metro building will probably see some big changes.

    I have no idea about the parking lot. Its development potential is pretty obvious.

  4. “The JMSB will be relocating to its new building next year”

    (holds his breath) ;¬)

  5. That Tim Horton’s building is a tear down. Out of scale, place, and it is tired.

    Glad to hear the city working on street aesthetics. De Maisonneuve has always had the makings of our most cohesive big downtown boulevard. The scale of the buildings and the broad street; the new developments (and the demo of the old Drummond Court overhang) have made it happen. Wider sidwalks and tree-lined no less. Wow. Someone at city hall actually has an aesthetic eye. Finally. Now if only we can Sherbrooke street to be rehabbed to make it live up to its Fifth Avenue-esque identity. Enough with the reno-depot paving bricks circa 1982.

  6. This will really help Concordia shed some of it’s “concrete campus” reputation despite another large building going up. Maybe now we will see some action for Bishop and Mackay.

  7. Finally! This square has always had potential and what it exists there now is simply a disgrace.

    (Not to continue on the already discussed topic of another thread, but I wish some of those crummy cafés and pizza places around the square were also replaced with something more decent à la Vasco de Gama or Art Java…)

  8. As a Concordia student, to me this is welcome news indeed. Trees! I’ve always disliked that lane that runs by Tim Horton’s. The bike lane was a step in the right direction; now this! Would like to hear more about Concordia’s plans; god knows we don’t hear much directly from them about it.

    I never got around to it, but I always intended to snap a pic of the pigeons or seagulls doing their loose bowel thing on poor Norman Bethune’s head, with the traffic swirling around – would’ve captured the filthy neglected vibe of the place.

    My only concern re the plazas is that due to the increasing canyonization of the area (with the new JMSB building blocking the formerly abundant SW sun) it’ll be a bit windy and dark except during midday. Hope I’m wrong.

  9. Man, just when I finish my diploma and now no longer have a reason to ride down there. Still, it’s on the route to the AMC Forum and Maison Bulgogi!

  10. Hello,

    Do you know the name of the condominium projects in and around the square? I would like to consider living in the area, and would like to know if you are familiar with these condo projects. Thanks.


  11. What happens to the pigeons in all of this redesign? Are they painted out of the picture or do we need a peregrine falcon on duty to keep them from defacing our distinguished Norman Bethune as they have done over the years!

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