Royalmount project should be suspended for now, urban-planning committee recommends

After hearing from everyone with an opinion on Royalmount, the controversial proposed $1.7-billion shopping and entertainment complex, Montreal officials have recommended the project be suspended until it can better meet the needs of the population of Montreal as a whole.

Montreal officials say project shouldn't go ahead until promoter shows it meets needs of entire population

Apart from 200 stores, 100 restaurants, a water park and other features, the Royalmount complex would include a piazza and outdoor terrasses. The promoter is planning to open it in 2022. (Carbonleo)

After hearing from everyone with an opinion on Royalmount, the controversial proposed $1.7-billion shopping and entertainment complex, Montreal officials have recommended the project be suspended until it can better meet the needs of the population of Montreal as a whole.

Montreal's economic, urban and housing development committee waded through 77 briefs from residents, organizations and municipal leaders about the project before weighing in with its final report.

"We believe that the consequences will be too harsh on the traffic, and on the businesses around, and on the whole of Montreal," said Maeva Vilain, who sits on the committee.

On Thursday evening, the committee released its recommendations to the City of Montreal and Montreal's agglomeration council on how — and whether — the Town of Mount Royal mega-development should move forward. 

The recommendations are not binding, but say the City of Montreal could pursue legal action to ensure they're put in place. 

Royalmount opponents say the development will drain Montreal's vibrant commercial streets of shoppers and further clog what are already some of the busiest roadways in Canada. 

Some of the other recommendations include: 

  • Significantly reducing the 8,000 parking spaces planned for the site. 
  • Including parks and other green spaces to create a "real, complete neighbourhood."
  • Reserving space for schools, and for social and affordable housing.
  • Developing a plan to ensure high air quality.
  • Integrating renewable energy into the development, with the aim of being carbon-neutral. 

Work has already started on the Royalmount site at the intersection of Highways 15 and 40, as TMR, an enthusiastic booster of the commercial project, has already given it the green light.

The developer, Carbonleo, says going back to the drawing board might be difficult. 

"Some [elements of the project] can hardly be changed, because we're under construction, and we're working, we have permits, and we're proceeding. But some elements seem to be problematic. We're open to look at it," said Carbonleo's vice president Claude Marcotte. 

Green-lit by TMR

The complex is scheduled to open in 2022, with five hotels, several office towers, some 100 restaurants, about 200 stores, a high-end wellness centre, an aquarium, a water park, a cinema — and 8,000 parking spots to accommodate all those customers' vehicles.

Carbonleo also plans to build 350 to 500 housing units per year — adding up to 8,000 residences, a school and a park.

However, to do that, a zoning change and a modification of the agglomeration's urban plan is necessary, which has forced the agglomeration council to look at the issue.

The agglomeration council will now consider the urban-planning committee's recommendations at its next meeting.

Montreal could block it: urban planner

Montreal and the province both have the power to delay the project or snuff it out before it gets off the ground, even if it is entirely located within the enclave of TMR, according to Fishler.

Raphaël​ Fischler, the dean of urban planning at Université de Montréal, says the city and province have the power to delay or halt Royalmount. (McGill University)

The developer is seeking an upgrade to the public infrastructure surrounding the project, he explained, but neither the province or city is forced to agree to that.

"The city and the province can slow things down and stop the project in its tracks by refusing, simply, to do the infrastructure work that is needed to make the project happen," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Monday.

No plans to block infrastructure, Montgomery says

The mayors of two of the Montreal boroughs that would be impacted by the development, Saint-Laurent's Alan DeSousa and Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce's Sue Montgomery, have both expressed grave reservations about the project.

However, Montgomery says the idea of blocking the developer from connecting to city infrastructure has not been discussed.

Montgomery is pushing for a sit-down with local municipal leaders, to develop "better solutions or a better design," she said, as "we have an opportunity here to create a really forward-looking community."

As for the provincial government, the minister responsible for Montreal, Chantal Rouleau, told Radio-Canada she has no intention of intervening to halt the project.

With files from Radio-Canada and CBC Montreal's Daybreak


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