Old Marianopolis site project to be scaled back

Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay has ordered the promoters of a controversial $300 million real estate project on the former site of Marianopolis College to scale back significantly their plans.

Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay has ordered the promoters of a controversial $300 million real estate project on the former site of Marianopolis College to scale back significantly their plans.

On Thursday, Tremblay announced the city would limit the project to the restoration or transformation of existing buildings on the site nestled in the south-western flank of Mount Royal park.

Tremblay said the city will take a hard line when it comes to protection of Mount Royal.

"Development on Mount Royal will now have to take place following new guidelines that will stop the disappearance of remaining green space on the mountain," said the mayor.

The decision means the project, which had called for a residential complex with 325 units and 671 underground parking spaces, will have to be scaled back by half.

Some residents had hoped to preserve the school's former sports complex, known as "the Annexe," which had been used by the local community.

The city will allow the complex to be torn down, on the condition that any new construction in that spot is of the same size.

Greenspaces and wooded areas must remain free of construction, the city said.

Developer disappointed

In 2008, Développement Cato Inc. bought the forested site from the Sulpician religious order for $46 million.

Last August, the city's public consultation office recommended that the plans be somewhat reduced to preserve green space and that its overall height be lowered.  

Spokesman for the development, Claude Marcotte said his company had played by the rules and was prepared to accept the office's recommendations.

"We're a little bit disappointed that [the city] did not follow the initial recommendation, but on the other hand we respect it," said Marcotte.

Marcotte said he hoped the city would now take over some of the land that cannot be built on in order to reduce the tax burden on the residential project.

Conservationists relieved

The scope of the original plan had worried conservationists, who were concerned about how the tract of land that butts up against Mount Royal park would be affected by the development.

The mayor's decision Thursday was a relief for Friends of the Mountain president Peter Howlett.

Had the project gone ahead as planned, Howlett said it would have meant open season on other green spaces on the mountain.

"If we didn't succeed on [reducing the scale of the project], the labour of the past would have been of little consequence and what was going to be required to be done going forward would have represented almost an insurmountable burden," said Howlett.