Bonaventure comes down soon
Phase 1 of plan to extend downtown to waterfront could start by spring
The Bonaventure Expressway’s days as a vestige of 1960s car-centric, elevated road design are numbered.
The Société du Havre de Montréal, the agency overseeing a 20-year project to redo the Montreal harbourfront, is crossing the T’s on its final plan to raze the portion of the expressway that feeds into the downtown core and in its place launch a neighbourhood urban renewal project that would extend downtown toward the waterfront.
It’s Phase 1 of a three-phase project planned since 2004 for the expressway, which is one of three approaches to Montreal from the Champlain Bridge, the busiest in Canada.
Depending on how smoothly things go from here, the shovels could be in the ground this spring for Phase 1, Société president and CEO Gaëtan Rainville revealed in an interview yesterday.
The second and third phases of the project would cover the area between the Lachine Canal and the Champlain Bridge.
“We’re just a couple of days or a couple of weeks at most from tabling our final report (on Phase 1) to the city of Montreal so the city can make a final decision,” he said. “This is the final step before preparing the plans and specifications.”
The projected finish date for the first phase, covering the area between downtown and the Lachine Canal, is 2012, he said.
The agency will recommend in its report that the city hold public consultations on the plan as soon as possible, he added.
The project details Rainville shared are new and cap five years of studies on everything from pedestrian safety to the state of the water and sewer pipes under streets in the sector.
The first phase would level the Bonaventure between Brennan and Notre Dame Sts.
Meanwhile, the two streets running on either side of the expressway – Nazareth and Duke Sts. – would be widened to four lanes from three to accommodate traffic crossing the river.
As well, with the structure removed, the area underneath would be built into blocks of commercial, residential and office buildings and possibly a hotel, Rainville said. The area would be pedestrian-friendly, with wide sidewalks and green spaces, he said. A public square is planned between Ottawa and William Sts.
One parcel of land to be freed up near the waterfront would be fashioned into a welcome point to the city, with green space and a work of art, Rainville said.
But a dedicated public transit bus corridor planned for Dalhousie St., west of the CN railway overpass, is raising hackles.
The street would become the route for about 1,400 South Shore buses a day that cross the Champlain Bridge during morning and evening rush hour.
It would send a caravan of buses past the New City Gas Company building at 956 Ottawa St., at the corner of Dalhousie. Built in 1859, it’s one of the city’s oldest surviving factory buildings.
Building owner Harvey Lev told The Gazette he was never contacted about the bus corridor.
His building is at the eastern limit of Devimco Inc.’s $1.3-billion Griffintown redevelopment, the future of which is now being re-examined because of the international financial crisis.
Rainville said the Société du Havre approached Devimco about the bus corridor since it had an offer to purchase the New City Gas Company building from Lev up until December.
Heritage Montreal program director Dinu Bumbaru, who was shown a sketch of Phase 1 last fall, said he’s cautiously optimistic about the overall project, but said the bus corridor doesn’t respect the heritage aspect of the vicinity. “It’s going to isolate the area,” he said.
Rainville said he’s also heard complaints from some condo owners in the area, but said the corridor is necessary to prevent bus traffic from clogging the widened Nazareth and Duke.
The plan calls for Dalhousie, which ends below Ottawa St., to be extended south by burrowing through the CN railway overpass, Rainville said.
The route would run through developer Roland Hakim’s building at 930 Wellington St. The city has plans to expropriate the building, which jeopardizes Hakim’s own plans to build two towers on the site, he said.
The projected cost of Phase 1 will be higher than the $90 million estimate presented in 2004, Rainville said. He said he wouldn’t reveal the figure until the city gets the final report.
Factors such as soil decontamination weren’t counted in the first estimate, he said.
The first phase of the project would demolish the Bonaventure Expressway between Brennan and Notre Dame Sts.