Nearly fifty North American and European specialists gathered in Montreal as part of a three-day forum to discuss the development of the Hippodrome site. The forum’s general consensus was that this avant-garde neighbourhood should put active transportation and public transit ahead of cars.
“It’s not a question of banning cars, but we need to focus on ways of making it possible for people to live in this neighbourhood without a car,” said Nik Luka, a professor at McGill University’s School of Urban Planning and a member of the city’s advisory committee for the Hippodrome project.
The urban planning experts came to the conclusion that a relatively car-free zone is desirable by taking into account the traffic patterns and geographical challenges of the site, which is closed in by railroads, the Decarie Expressway and heavily congested Jean-Talon St.
The city is aware that there’s still much to be done in order to make the site more welcoming to public transit users, which for the moment is only accessible via the Namur metro station. Daniel Lafond, the borough’s director of urban planning, said pedestrian access would definitely be improved. The experts also spoke of the possibility of including a suburban train station and a tramway line.
Another important issue raised was the inclusion of social and affordable housing on the site. Local housing activists have been asking for the construction of 2,500 social housing units at the former racetrack site, and it seems like their efforts will finally pay off.
“Organizations in our neighbourhood have been working on this issue for 20 years, so we’re very excited that it’s finally happening,” said Jennifer Auchinleck, a community organizer with the Community Development Corporation of Côte-des-Neiges. “This was a chance for us to bring our vision to the planning process and discuss it with people from all over the world.”
Auchinleck insists that the community doesn’t see the Hippodrome project as a new neighbourhood, but as an extension and part of Côte-des-Neiges. “We think it’s really important that this development respond to the needs of the people who live in the neighbourhood, especially their housing needs.
NDG councillor Peter McQueen was happy to see that the borough and the city are starting the process so many years in advance. “Let’s keep consulting,” he said. “I think we’ve got the intellectual framework for what we’re looking for. Now let’s hear the local input of all the citizens who live around here.”
Public hearings of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal are set to begin in March./ Sarah Geledi /