Montreal's Metro cars will live on as community spaces, art projects

The STM recently announced seven projects it has tentatively approved after putting out a call for proposals this spring.

7 projects to receive approval range from firefighter training to landscape exhibit

Frederic, left, and Etienne Morin-Bordeleau, are co-founders of Project MR-63. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

As Montreal's original Metro cars are being gradually pulled out of service, at least a few of the 50-year-old cars will be getting second lives.

As part of an event celebrating the Metro's 50 years, the STM recently announced seven projects it has tentatively approved after putting out a call for proposals this spring.

Etienne Morin-Bordeleau says he was thrilled to learn he and his brother Frederic will be the lucky new owners of eight of the two-ton, smurf-blue and white MR-63 cars.

Their $4-million project involves transforming the cars into a multi-level sculpture that will function as an art gallery, community space and cafe/bar featuring local products and vendors.

"These cars are the symbols of Montreal and we want to give them back to Montrealers,'' Morin-Bordeleau said of his venture, dubbed project MR-63.

The project would feature a café on the first floor, an exhibition space on the second and terrasses on the third. (Rayside Labossière/MR-63)

The agency said it received about 30 submissions from members of the public wishing to purchase and repurpose the first-generation cars, which are being gradually replaced.

They offered to sell the cars for $750 or $1,000, which doesn't include the approximately $4,000 it takes to ship the car within the Montreal area.

To be approved, a project had to meet certain criteria including heritage value, sustainability and feasibility.

Because the cars run underground and were never designed to stay outside, outdoor projects needed to include a plan to winterize them without compromising their signature design.

The seven projects that were green-lighted range from a car to use in firefighter training to an artist's request for 16 doors for an art piece.

Putting the cars 'out to pasture'

An English-style public garden near Quebec's Gaspé region plans to put one of the cars "out to pasture'' - literally - by using it to create a train-inspired landscape exhibit.

"To put it in a planted and landscaped environment, we think will be a whimsical contrast and one that will bring a smile to people's faces,'' said Alexander Reford, director of Reford Gardens in Grand-Métis, Que.

The transit agency said final approval depends on the applicants being able to finalize the details of their plans.

A 'new Montreal icon' for 2019

Morin-Bordeleau says he and his brother are already rolling up their sleeves to make their project a reality.

They have joined up with engineering and architectural firms, and have several financial partners and local politicians backing them.

It's our ode to Montreal.- Etienne Morin-Bordeleau, project co-founder

He says they hope to start building in the city's south-west neighbourhood by 2018, with a grand opening a year later.

Eventually, he hopes the signature cars will turn his project into a "new Montreal icon.''

"We want people to come to Montreal and go to the Olympic Stadium and then come to our MR-63 project,'' he said. "It's our ode to Montreal.''