City plans to turn McGill College into public plaza

McGill College Avenue in downtown Montreal will be redeveloped into a public square, but not without the input of citizens, Mayor Valérie Plante announced Thursday.

Mayor says she wants public input before deciding whether to make it pedestrian-only

Mayor Valérie Plante said work on redeveloping McGill College Avenue could begin as soon as next year. (CBC)

McGill College Avenue in downtown Montreal will be redeveloped into a public square, but not without the input of citizens, Mayor Valérie Plante announced Thursday.

"Our vision, of course, is to work with citizens and the different users of McGill College and that area," Plante said, promising a "signature" project for the city that will gain international recognition.

"We want to make sure this place will be in all the tourist books," she said. It will be the "place to be."

Unlike most of downtown, the four blocks that make up McGill College have extra wide sidewalks and a tree-lined median running down the middle.

"We know this place deserves so much love and attention because we have such a great view of the mountain," Plante said.

Public consultations will begin in September, Plante said Thursday. (Radio-Canada)

Pedestrian only? TBD

Whether or not the new square will be pedestrian-only is still up in the air, Plante said, as access to shops and businesses on the street will need to be considered moving forward.

That will all be part of the public consultation process, she said.

"Of course, when you talk about a plaza, usually it's mostly pedestrians, but we also need to work with the buildings around."

Plante stressed that her administration is willing to entertain a wide variety of ideas for the redevelopment, but added that she believes Montrealers want more pedestrian-only areas.

A final decision on whether McGill College will go pedestrian-only will only be made after the public consultation, she said. 

McGill College Avenue stretches four blocks between McGill's Roddick Gates on Sherbrooke Street and Place Ville-Marie on Cathcart. (CBC)

Construction to start in 2019

The independent municipal body that oversees public consultations has been mandated to take on the project, and will document the public's suggestions.

There has long been a citizen-led effort to protect the avenue's open spaces from development, Plante said. She invited those citizens to get involved in planning the street's redevelopment.

"We're so glad that a lot of citizens mobilized in the past to make sure there would be no building there," she said. "We are excited to talk with citizens to see what they envision."

Plante stopped short of discussing costs for the project, or an exact timeline, saying it's part of a larger plan to redevelop Ste-Catherine Street and other downtown areas, such as Place Ville-Marie.

She said consultations will begin in September, with work starting sometime in 2019.

Work for the new REM light rail system is also slated to begin on McGill College in the fall.

With files from CBC's Arian Zarrinkoub


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