The site of UdeM’s new Outremont campus.
The past decade has seen the construction of major university building projects at Montreal universities, notably at Concordia and UQAM and to a lesser extent McGill. The Université de Montréal is also looking to expand, but according to administrators it has few options at its current Côte-des-Neiges campus given its location up against the side of Mount Royal. As a result, the university has set its sights on the former Outremont Railyards as a location for the construction of a second campus.
However, this plan has not been universally well received, all the more so in light of UQAM’s Ilot Voyageur construction debacle. Jean-Claude Marsan, former Dean of the UdeM Architecture department, believes that a second campus would be a financially risky endeavour and that the university would be better maximising its current campus. Others point to the university’s sale of 1402 Mt-Royal avenue to developer Frank Catania as a sign that the university was never really interested in exploring other, less grandiose options. Despite criticisms, the university bought the property from Canadian Pacific in 2006, and immediately set to work designing a campus on the property.
An initial proposal was presented to the city in 2006. Consultations were organised (largely in Outremont) the following year by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal to sollicit input on the plan and its integration into the surrounding neighbourhoods. Following reccomendations from the OCPM, a revised project was presented in May of 2010. Details of the projects can be found on the university’s website.
UdeM’s conception of the site, viewed from the east. The street on the left is Van Horne.
The project would bring an estimated 10,000 students and employees to the area, meaning significant changes for the sector. As is often the case with such large projects, nearby residents have expressed concerns on how such a development could affect their neighbourhood. In Outremont a key issue that is often brought up is traffic. Many residents fear that such a huge project could risk dramatically increasing traffic as a once largely residential sector gains a heavy institutional presence.
But the prospect of this development has also raised concerns in Parc-Extension. While officially in a different borough, the overwhelmingly immigrant neighbourhood boarders the site and will likely be affected just as much as Outremont. Key amongst concerns are fears about the pressure that such a project could put on the housing market in Parc-Extension, a working class neighbourhood where housing is still relatively affordable. Urban geographers even have a term for this well-documented phenomenon: “studentification“. University students are often willing to pay a premium for proximity to campuses, pushing up rental housing prices. Moreover, businesses catering to student populations spring up and put pressure on other local businesses. Parc-Ex residents would like to see the city put in place a strategy to ensure that current residents aren’t priced out as a result of the project.
Parc-Ex residents, organised under the banner of the Parc-Extension Citizen’s Committee and the Comité d’Action de Parc-Extension (CAPE), have also decried the fact that there hasn’t been the negotiation of a community benefits agreement with the university. Such agreements stipulate the developer’s responsibilities to the local community, and they are a tool that is increasingly being used in mega-project developments.
The city has concentrated its consultation efforts in Outremont, given that this is the territory in which the project is located. Community groups feel that not enough work has been done to include Parc-Ex residents in the project and ensure that their interests are considered in its development. A programme particulier d’urbanisme will be adopted at a further date to control development surrounding the site and in the eyes of the Tremblay administration it will be during the elaboration of this document that Park-Ex residents will be able to have their say.
The territory that will be considered in the city’s Programme particulier d’urbanisme.
On the agenda of this week’s City Council was a motion to adopt an agreement with UdeM setting the general contours of the project. Parc-Ex residents came out in force during question period on Monday and were a vocal presence, directing pointed questions at Richard Deschamps, the Executive Committee member responsible for the dossier. They repeatedly demanded that the city push back the vote to allow for greater consultation and concertation in Parc-Ex. Many present also saw the city’s decision to approve the agreement with the University before negotiating benefits for the local community as signing away the city’s most important bargaining chip.
During debate on the motion, Projet Montréal and Vision Montréal councillors proposed that the vote be pushed back to a later date, but this was dismissed by the Union Montréal majority. And when push came to shove the opposition parties rallied to the motion, taking the position that UdeM had made significant improvements and that the project is fundamentally sound, even if more consultation in and consideration of Parc-Ex is needed. The motion thus passed unanimously. Amongst those voting in favour was Mary Deros, city councillor for Parc-Extention, who had previously told community groups that she would be abstaining in recognition of the concerns that had been raised.
While certain details remain to be determined, the vote essentially constitutes an approval in principal for the development. Council also voted to approve modifications to the city’s Master Plan to allow for the project, granting zoning and infrastructure changes necessary to move forward. The university and the city will now proceed with the next steps of the project; decontaminating the site and developing the PPU for the surrounding sector. Citizens groups plan to continue working on the issue and mobilising Parc-Ex residents around the future of their neighbourhood in the context of this mega-project.
Comme l’hôpital de Mc Gill ménage Westmount et fait passer les camions dans NDG, ceux de ce projet éviteront Outremont et TMR pour être concentrés vers le voisin pauvre Parc-Extension.
How is this project going to seriously affect Park Extension? There are train tracks in the way!
And if TMR hasn’t pushed up rents in Park Ex, I don’t think a new campus will be able to do that. Also, people who get off at Edouard-Montpetit for their classes might already have apartments close to Parc or Acadie metro stations, since it’s quite close to school and anything near E-M metro is quite expensive.
C’est vrai, Alain. Dès le printemps on aura 15 camions de terre contaminé passant à travers Parc-Extension… par heure !
Naftee, there is no university campus in TMR bringing in 10,000 students per day (as projected in the U de M plans for the train yards). There is a growing student population in Park-Extension, in part because of the proximity to the Metro blue line, and they are already putting upwards pressure on rents in the area. The project will bring in many more, who will access the campus from a projected tunnel under the tracks linking the campus to the Acadie station.
You can check out the Citizens’ Committee press release from before the vote at goo.gl/HiAv7. There will likely be another one, post-vote.
And the latest one is now up at http://goo.gl/hF9CC.
L’Université de Montréal pourra enfin mériter son vrai nom: «Université d’Outremont». La seule chose est que les diplômés ne pourront plus clamer qu’ils sont allés chercher leur savoir sur une montagne…
It seems that every single project in Montreal wherever it is and whatever its side will bring significant opposition and take 3 times as long to complete as it should. I think the only place I’ve lived (lived in quite a few) which is just as bad is San-Francisco.
God, I know change is hard, but bringing money into a neighborhood, which is what this is. How can this be bad. Universities bring life, energy, around a place; its one of Montreal’s main assets. Its not the sleepy suburbs, but should it be. There are two metro stations nearby, and bus lines, why would students go there by car anyway, I wouldn’t. Rents will go up…
Have you seen the rental stock in park extension, much of it is overpriced and plain terrible. If you want cheap rent in a decent neighborhood, go in the neighborhood along the 67 bus line above the metropolitain (that’s were I live, its the nice part of st-michel, along Pie IX, not so nice :-) a 5 1/2 for 650$ in a duplex is frequent and these places are actually nice and well taken care of with the owner living downstairs.
Good luck for this project. There is a serious shortage of cash and labour in this city and it will take a miracle to complete.