Public Consultation Report on Montréal Development Plan: Major challenges await metropolis

Link to media kit: http://goo.gl/5ilJEd

MONTREAL, Feb. 24, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The Office de consultation publique de Montréal makes public today the report on the consultation held on the draft Montréal Development Plan (MDP).

The document presents the major proposals put forth by the Ville de Montréal to ensure development and quality of life for Montrealers through the coming decades. The consultation gathered the opinions of a large Montréal public. The information sessions and thematic events attracted some 1400 people, while 1201 residents responded to the online questionnaire, and 95 opinions were presented verbally or in writing over the course of nine sessions.

After analysis of all the information, the commission considers that Montréal cannot escape the following three challenges:

  • Adapting the city to climate changes;
  • Taking up the demographic challenge;
  • Carving out a place in the new economic environment.

    In response to these three challenges and to different issues, the commission proposes to achieve 5 targets: a compact and efficient city; an inclusive and supportive city; a city of culture and knowledge; a green city; a thriving city.

The temperature in Montréal has already increased by an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius, and additional one-degree increases are expected both in summer and winter in the coming years. Such changes lead to serious problems in terms of public health, life and property safety, and pollution: 20 to 30% increase in the mortality rate recorded in some heat islands during the latest heat waves; water pollution; floods; and air pollution during smog episodes.

To face that challenge, measures must be taken on several fronts. One of the most important is to give priority to public transit, its promotion, and the improvement of its efficiency, reliability, accessibility and affordability.

It should be noted that public transportation has been identified by a large number of players as the priority for the future of Montréal, and the best investment of tax revenue from taxpayers.

In terms of transportation, the measures considered most important are to:

  • Push forward the four priority public transportation projects proposed in the draft MDP - 240 kilometres of reserved bus lanes, express bus service along Pie IX Boulevard, the Train de l'Est project, and the extension of the blue metro line - sequencing them according to three principles: resolving the maintenance deficit; completing the work that has already been started; and, then, developing new projects;
  • Adjust the public and active transportation offering to the needs of our city's neighbourhoods, not only to those of the economic centres proposed by Montréal;
  • Make pedestrian safety and comfort the basic principle of Montréal's approach to travel management;
  • Promote connectivity among means of active and public transportation.

In terms of urban planning
The city's development must be based on the creation of an efficient compact city, where Montréal neighbourhoods become complete living environments rather than "dormitory neighbourhoods." Those complete neighbourhoods, offering good public transit services, would be composed, in varying proportions, of employment zones, residential and commercial areas, school zones, and areas devoted to socializing and relaxation - a community nucleus that people will be proud to call home. This approach supports the preservation of neighbourhood employment zones, limiting residential construction that would be detrimental to them.

Other measures are also recommended, such as:

  • The development of a Montréal density model with a human face, tailored to individual sites and neighbourhoods, which would focus primarily on plexes or on heights, where justified;
  • The development of public property and its use as a development lever, as proposed in the MDP.

In terms of greening and green infrastructures
The taking into account of the effects of climate changes also calls for action in terms of strengthening Montréal as a green city. The large parks, ecoterritories and natural environments are recognized not only as habitats for biodiversity, but also as climate-, high-water- and flood-control "infrastructures," complementing, if not replacing altogether, in some cities, the water-management infrastructures. The benefits of greening in an urban environment are also affirmed, notably to counter heat islands, extend the life of materials, filter air pollutants, and promote good neighbourship. The presence within the city of abundant nature and, most importantly, Mount Royal and the protection of its landscapes, are highly desirable, as are the protection and enhancement of parks and shoreline green spaces.

Priority measures to be implemented include:

  • The protection and integrity of both the mountain and views that include it;
  • The development, enhancement and accessibility of shoreline spaces;
  • An increase in the number of protected environments, large parks and ecoterritories, and urban green spaces;
  • The abundant planting of trees on private residential, commercial, industrial and institutional properties; the contribution, as partners and property owners, of the Québec and Canadian governments, and of other owners of large natural environments, and the use of by-laws, as required;
  • The identification of ambitious targets in terms of urban spaces to be greened, green corridors, and green spaces reserved for urban agriculture.

Taking up the demographic challenge
The population of Montréal, like that in other major Canadian cities, is undergoing significant change. The number of people ages 65 and over is growing. Those people often live alone and want to remain autonomous for as long as possible. While students form a high percentage of the Montreal population, thousands of young families with children leave Montréal every year owing to the overly high cost of housing and a residential offering that still fails to meet their needs. Lastly, new immigrants often encounter obstacles on their path to integration. In any case, it is expected that Montréal, although it represents 50% of the population of the CMM, will account for only one third of demographic growth in the region over the next few years. It is important for the development of the whole region and the province, to retain a high concentration of population and employment in the center, on the island of Montreal.

Housing
It goes without saying that the primary measures involved in taking up this challenge pertain to housing. The programs established by Ville de Montréal to provide access to property and access to adequate and affordable large unit housing for everyone have produced some results, but they are insufficient to protect the variety of housing of the city population. The risk of seeing the middle class wither away from the Montréal landscape is very real. The exodus of young families with children has been identified as one of the most important issues for the coming years. Action is urgently required.

There are several courses of action recommended:

  • Thoroughly review access to the municipal housing programs, especially for young families;
  • In cooperation with the Québec and Canadian Governments, enhance and diversify access-to-property formulas, as well as renovation and construction programs;
  • Increase the offering of affordable housing, and create land reserves to that end, as required;
  • Make it mandatory to include social and community housing and lower the application threshold for the municipal strategy.

In addition to initiatives pertaining to housing, some measures targeting greater social and integrating immigrants' unity are also put forward by the commission.

Carving out a place in the new economic environment
Contrary to the draft MDP's intention to limit itself to economic challenges over which the Ville de Montréal has direct control, the consultation brought to light a keen wish to see Montréal also play a role in the enhancement and development of knowledge and creativity, the development of entrepreneurship, talent retention and job creation. Montréal has neither the power nor the means to do it alone, but its political and administrative leadership is essential. However, the city is currently struggling to maintain a sustained growth rate. It is expected that Montréal will achieve the lowest growth rate in the MMC, i.e. zero growth.

Strong measures must therefore be taken to, including:

  • Affirm the role of universities and research centres as partners in the development of the metropolis, and help to maximize the impact of their activities; retain talent;
  • Build on cultural and creative industries, and on existing industrial clusters;
  • Maintain and develop neighbourhood employment zones;
  • Strengthen the downtown core, as an asset for the region and for Québec as a whole;
  • Create a task force on the changing commercial offering in Montréal, in downtown particularly;
  • Consolidate the city as a multimodal freight transportation hub;
  • Make public infrastructure rehabilitation a lever for growth.

The financial framework
Lastly, the commission urges Montréal to enter as quickly as possible into negotiations with higher levels of government with a view to diversifying and increasing sources of revenue, in order to address pressing financial needs in certain key areas, such as public transportation, infrastructure rehabilitation, and housing.

Many other just as important issues were raised during the consultation, with recommendations in line with meeting the three identified challenges and achieve the five targets. These ranged from the importance of cultural productions and access to culture in the life of Montrealers to the city's need for unity. Those themes should permeate all orientations that Montréal will follow to ensure its future development.

In all areas, the commission concludes that Montréal must capitalize on its numerous strengths, reflected in a number of positive indicators, notably in terms of creativity and innovation. These forces are reflected in the advantageous position occupied by the city which ranks 16th among the most competitive financial centers on the planet, 22nd among the most competitive in the world in economic terms, at the forefront of the university cities in Canada, and in the Top 10 of the trendiest cities, to name a few.

All available information about this program may be obtained at the offices of the OCPM, 1550 Metcalfe Street, Suite 1414, and at the Direction du greffe at City Hall, 275 Notre-Dame Street East. The documentation is also available on the Office Web site, at www.ocpm.qc.ca.

SOURCE Office de consultation publique de Montréal

For further information:

Luc Doray
514 872-3568
514 977-8365