TMR stands its ground as opposition to Royalmount project grows

Opposition is mounting against a $1.7-billion shopping district proposed for the Town of Mount Royal, with critics saying it will bring a toxic cocktail of traffic, pollution and economic woes to the island of Montreal.

Mega-shopping district would 'cannibalize existing wealth,' says Saint-Laurent Mayor Alan DeSousa

The Royalmount commercial centre will feature hotels, restaurants and a water park along with 8,000 parking spots. This, opponents say, will bring traffic to the area. (Carbonleo)

Opposition is mounting against a $1.7-billion shopping district proposed for the Town of Mount Royal, with critics saying it will bring a toxic cocktail of traffic, pollution and economic woes to the island of Montreal.

But TMR is not backing down from its desire to proceed with the sprawling Royalmount project.

In its presentation to Montreal, published Thursday, TMR states the "positive impacts" of the project "far exceed" concerns about traffic, saying congestion will be mitigated by an electric shuttle connecting the shopping district to the Mount Royal light-rail train station.

"The agglomeration of Montreal has the chance to realize today a modern vision and sustainable business and economic development," it states.

Organizations, citizens and institutions have been presenting briefs to the City of Montreal during public consultations now underway at Montreal city hall.

Those briefs outline each presenter's concerns and recommendations for a project that would span an area larger than 40 football fields in TMR, at the intersection of highways 40 and 15.

In its brief, TMR says, rather than building such a shopping district in Toronto, Laval or on the South Shore, this project could be built "here on the Island of Montreal, for the benefit of all Montrealers."

Developer promises shuttle

TMR Mayor Philippe Roy announced Thursday that a permanent electric shuttle will connect the Royalmount project to the Mount-Royal Station of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) light-rail line.

The shuttle will be funded by Royalmount's developer, Carbonleo — ideally, at no cost to users, according to a TMR statement.

This map, published Thursday by the Town of Mount Royal, shows the proposed electric shuttle's route between the De la Savane Metro station and the Mount Royal train station. (Town of Mount Royal)

"This high frequency and regular shuttle will help improve access to the upper regional public transit network," said Roy in the statement.

The shuttle, along with the planned pedestrian bridge connecting the district to the De La Savane Metro station, "will resolve some of the increased traffic the Royalmount project will generate, with a goal of sustainable mobility," he said.

Laundry list of concerns

There is a growing chorus of opposition to the project as planned. That opposition arises not just from surrounding municipalities and boroughs, but also environmental experts, a local school board and community groups.

In its presentation, the Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board (CSMB) expresses concerns about the expected population boom in a time when its schools are bursting at the seams.

The Royalmount centre is slated for the Town of Mount-Royal's industrial sector, not far from the De la Savane Metro station. (Carbonleo)

Two new elementary schools would be needed, the CSMB states, to accomodate the planned residential development.

In its presentation, the sustainable development observatory of the Université de Montréal finds it "inconceivable" that a municipality representing such a small percentage of the population on Montreal island has the right to endorse a project of such magnitude without accountability to the entire region

Surrounding municipalities "will experience the multi-scale impacts of the project," point out Associate Prof.  Paula Negron and Prof. Gérard Beaudet in that brief.

And those surrounding municipalities are also concerned.

Speaking to CBC Montreal's Dayrbeak Thursday, Saint-Laurent Mayor Alan DeSousa says such a project will take business away from commercial districts not just in his borough but across the city, while bringing substantial traffic to an already congested area.

DeSousa described mitigation measures like the pedestrian bridge to the Metro station as "putting lipstick on a pig." Customers are more likely to drive to the shopping centre, he said, as it will have 8,000 parking spaces.

Saint-Laurent borough Mayor Alan DeSousa says the Royalmount project will hurt merchants who are already struggling in the age of online shopping. (CBC)

Bringing so much traffic to an area already prone to gridlock, he said, will make it difficult for municipal governments to reach greenhouse gas emissions targets.

As for housing planned for the project, DeSousa notes there are already large-scale residential developments on the horizon, like the one proposed for the Blue Bonnets site which could bring as much as thousands of new residents to the same area.

To reduce congestion, a new tramway and the long-awaited Cavendish Boulevard extension are needed, he said.

Along with more congestion, he said, the Royalmount project will hurt merchants who are already struggling in the age of online shopping.

"This project would not, definitely, create new wealth," he said. "It's going to cannibalize existing wealth."

Unanimous opposition in CDN-NDG: Rotrand

Sue Montgomery, the mayor of the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, has described the project as outdated and "car-centric," also expressing concerns about bringing more traffic to an already congested Décarie Expressway and Décarie Boulevard.

Instead, the borough is pushing for more sustainable development of the sector.

Coun. Marvin Rotrand, representing CDN-NDG's Snowdon district, told CBC that the borough council is comprised of councillors elected under three different party banners, but all agree the project is "far too large for the site."

Coun. Marvin Rotrand says major developments in Mount Royal should be done jointly with surrounding municipalities. (CBC)

The parking lot would be the largest in the province, he said, "generating significant automobile traffic" on two of Quebec's busiest highways that already attract some 360,000 cars a day.

"We think a proposal of this sort requires joint planning by all the neighbouring communities to find a harmonious way to redevelop Town of Mount Royal's ageing industrial park," he said.

"It can't be Town of Mount Royal's decision alone."

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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