Plateau greening plan irks some, not others

A $1 million plan to shut about a dozen streets in Montreal's densely-populated Plateau Mont-Royal borough has upset some residents and merchants, who say they weren't consulted.
St-Dominique St. will be permanently closed to traffic between St-Joseph Blvd. and Laurier Ave. ((Corinne Smith/CBC))
A $1 million plan to shut about a dozen streets in Montreal's densely-populated Plateau Mont-Royal borough has upset some residents and merchants, who say they weren't consulted.

Borough mayor Luc Ferrandez (Projet Montréal) announced the plan for a pedestrian mall earlier this week, saying it was a first step towards remedying a generation of urban planning that prioritized motor vehicles.

Under the plan, vehicular traffic will be permanently barred from St. Dominique St. between St. Joseph Blvd and Laurier St. W., except for emergency vehicles.

The nearby Lahaie Park will be extended over the street towards the facing Saint-Enfant-Jésus Catholic Church, and a farmer's market will be held in the space during summer months starting June 17.

The street will be painted green this summer until more permanent extensions are built.

The St. Dominique closure is one of several proposed in the plan that will increase green space in the middle of the city. 

Plateau resident Peggy Gonzales said she liked the idea at first because she "thought it was good for the environment," but when she thought about the implications she grew angry.

Gonzales is mother to an autistic child, and cares for her elderly father, who is deaf and blind.

"I need my car!" she said in an interview with CBC. "Even just to go to the CLSC, I have to use my car to get [my father and son] there."

Gonzales, who lives on Esplanade Ave., said she's upset the borough didn't consult her or other residents.

"I spoke to my neighbours and no one  knew about it," she said.

The closure will allow an extension of nearby Lahaie Park. ((Corinne Smith/CBC))
Adding green space is a wonderful idea, she added – but questions the need in the Plateau.

"We have a mountain in the middle of our city, Gonzales said. "Not that many cities can boast about that. Adding five more trees isn't going to make anything better."

Mile-End grocery store owner Bernard LeGendre said he's worried about losing weekend business from regular customers who make the pilgrimage to his European specialty store, La Latina on St. Viateur St.

He'd simply like a chance to express his concerns to his elected representatives, LeGendre said.

"I just want to be consulted to see what are the alternatives to simply closing down the street. It's completely changing the rules for businesses," that he says are key to a healthy neighbourhood.

For others, the street closure plan will foster a stronger sense of community.

"A car-free street is much more inviting for people to interact with each other," said Sabine Alpers, an organizer for the Marché Fermier, a farmer's market that will set up on St. Dominique St. in June.

"The street as any other public space is important because it is a space shared by anybody. We need these common places in our marginalized society."  

Projet Montréal councillor Alex Norris acknowledged the borough administration did not hold public consultations on the issue.

Unlike the previous administration, he said the party does not intend to consult on every issue, said Norris, adding that the street closures were part of the Projet Montréal election platform.

The borough plan includes these projects:

  • Erect a fence around Saint-Louis Park.
  • Reconfigure Jean-Jacques-Olier Park.
  • Eliminate several parking spots in Sir Wilfred Laurier Park.
  • Open a café in Lafontaine Park.