Viger Square makeover stalled as province mulls over plans

Work to renovate Viger Square, a legacy project for the city's 375th anniversary, has been suspended as the city waits for the province’s OK to proceed, Radio-Canada has learned.

Square sits on top of Ville-Marie Expressway, which is provincial jurisdiction

A heavy equipment vehicle sits idle in Viger Square. Work on renovations to the square has stalled. (CBC)

Work to renovate Viger Square has been suspended as the city waits for the province's OK to proceed, Radio-Canada has learned.

The park is on top of the Ville-Marie Expressway and Quebec's transport ministry has not yet approved parts of the city's plans.

The renovated park is supposed to be ready in time for Montreal's 375th anniversary next year.

The new Viger Square is expected to be more open with more trees and green spaces.

Work began on the area of the square referred to as the îlot Daudelin earlier this year. Many of the concrete structures there, created by artist Charles Daudelin, have been demolished. Others will be restored and there are plans for better lighting and new drainage and sewer systems.
Agora, a series of concrete structures that used to stand in Viger Square, was meant to mimic the gardens of Greek antiquity and create open spaces designed for public gatherings and street performers. (Radio-Canada)

Spokesperson Sarah Bensadoun said Transport Quebec has to analyze the city's project to make sure it doesn't jeopardize the safety of those travelling on the highway underneath.

Bensadoun said only certain elements still need to be finalized and doesn't believe the delay will have a major impact on the project's start date.

Only a 'slight delay,' city says

The early stages of preparation were initially supposed to be completed by the end of October, but city spokesperson Valérie De Gagné says the target date to finish the preparation is sometime before the arrival of winter.

Opposition councillor Valérie Plante says she can't understand why Montreal would move ahead with plans before getting final approval from the ministry.

Homeless people used to sleep under the concrete structures Daudelin created, which provided shelter from the elements, but Plante says they been displaced as a result of the construction.

"We kicked out homeless people from the park and prevented crews working on the CHUM from using it. I think it's useless to start clogging up the area in advance if nothing's happening," she said.

De Gagné said the hold up is considered to be "slight delay" and says Montreal is "confident" the renovations will be completed in time for the anniversary.

The city is expected to unveil the details of the renovations some time in the next two weeks.

The delay comes after Radio-Canada reported Wednesday that an overhaul of Place Jacques-Cartier, one of Montreal's busiest tourist areas, would be put on hold. 

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's François Cormier