Coderre's downtown vision prioritizes waterfront, attracting families

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has announced 76 downtown projects, but hasn't given details on funding.

Announcement comes one year after Coderre unveiled 15-year development strategy for city centre

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre says he has a concrete action plan for the future of the downtown core. (CBC)

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre outlined Monday what he called a "concrete action plan" for making the city more family friendly and revitalizing its waterfront. 

His announcement was meant to detail how his administration would deliver on its 15-year development strategy for the city, made public last year.

It was accompanied by 42-page booklet that calls for a more integrated public transit network, a job-producing downtown core, a transformed waterfront and more schools and housing for families.

"We have a strategy, we have a vision, we have a plan attached to it," he said during a news conference at Mount Royal Park. 

But Coderre was unable to specify how much money is earmarked for long-term projects, or where all the funding will come from. Currently $400 million has been set aside for a total of 76 downtown projects by 2019, he said.

Projet Montréal leader Valérie Plante, expected to be Coderre's main rival in November's mayoral election, panned Monday's announcement as offering Montrealers little new from previous declarations by the mayor.

"Let's be honest, it's another press conference, to present another version of the action plan," Plante said.

"At this point, what we want is a track record. And so, in the last four years, this administration hasn't been able to deliver much for families or for getting schools in the boroughs."

More schools, fewer condos

Coderre promised, on Monday, to see through the construction of four new elementary schools and one new high school in the downtown core. 

That responds to a long-time demand by the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM). Along with other French-language school boards, the CSDM has complained the city has done little to help them find property for new schools. 

"I hope Mr. Coderre has land in his pocket," CSDM president Catherine Harel Bourdon told Radio Canada on Monday.

The proposed plaza at Jacques-Cartier Basin would bring visitors closer to the water, a key element of the Old Port's proposed master plan. (Old Port of Montreal)

​Another central element of Coderre's plan to make the downtown more accessible to families is expanding the supply of affordable housing. 

A common complaint among housing activists in the city is that many of the new units being built downtown are high-end condos designed for singles or couples. 

Coderre said Monday that the city will make efforts to limit new condo construction in some areas and require building of social and affordable housing in others.

More control of port

The mayor also reiterated his hopes of convincing the federal government to transfer control of Montreal's port to the municipality.

City Hall's lack of jurisdiction within this sector of its own city hinders its ability to influence its redevelopment, he said.  

"One of the issues regarding the action plan is actually the future of the Old Port," he said. "At the end of the day, I truly believe that we have to integrate the Old Port into Old Montreal."

In March 2015, Coderre unveiled a city-wide plan to spruce up the waterfront, citing the success of planning and development in Toronto as an inspiration.

That plan included construction projects like the creation of a swimming area at the Old Port's Clock Tower, and new beaches in Verdun and Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles.

The Verdun beach — promised for this year's 375th anniversary — is still not finished. It is now scheduled to open next year.