Province officially returns Hippodrome site to Montreal

The deal was made official at a ceremony attended by Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao and Russell Copeman, mayor of the Côte-des-Neiges—​Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough.

Transfer paves way for long-discussed redevelopment of the 440,000 square metre site

The old Blue Bonnets Raceway closed in 2009, 13 years after being sold to the provincial government. (CBC)

Ownership of Montreal's old Hippodrome site was officially handed back to the city Tuesday in a move that paves the way for its much-discussed redevelopment.

The deal was made official at a ceremony attended by Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao and Russell Copeman, mayor of the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough.

An agreement in principle between Quebec and Montreal will see the province receive half the net profits from the sale of the 440,000 square metre site — the size of about 81 football fields.

The city has six years to begin selling the land to developers.

The Hippodrome, formerly known as the Blue Bonnets Raceway, closed down in 2009, 13 years after the site was sold to the province.

Mixed-housing planned

A proposed mixed-housing development at the site could see an estimated 5,000 units built. The agreement also breathes new life into the Cavendish Boulevard extension project.

"Today's agreement marks the start of reappropriating the lands in order to maximize their full socio-economic potential," Coderre said.

He said the redevelopment will help young families and "people from all social spheres" get established in Montreal.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Quebec's Finance Minister Carlos Leitao announced the transfer of Montreal's Hippodrome back to the city. (Derek Marinos / CBC)

In 2012, the administration of former Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay announced that the Hippodrome site would be given back to the city free of charge, under the condition that the province would get part of the revenue from future development.

The city laid out plans to transform the real estate into a residential area, and social housing advocates at the time hoped to one day see 2,500 social housing units on the site.

In 2014, the Côte-des-Neiges tenants advocacy group, Project Genesis, expressed concern that the social housing project was in danger of falling through. They were reacting to the news that the agreement to convert the former Hippodrome de Montréal site into affordable housing hadn't been signed.

At Tuesday's announcement, Coderre said the city is committed to covering 30 per cent of the cost of the social housing development.

"This is the last piece of large green space, and we have an opportunity to make an impact, and that's what we want to do," he said.

With files from Matt D'Amours and Derek Marinos