OCPM Bridge-Bonaventure report stresses affordable housing, public use

The OCPM, whose president was fired last week over an expense scandal, quietly posted its recommendations on the sector.

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Montreal’s Office de consultation publique, whose president was fired by city council last week over an expense scandal, has quietly made public its awaited report and recommendations on city hall’s plan to redevelop the Bridge-Bonaventure sector.

The bulk of the 21 recommendations in the report, which was posted on the OCPM’s website this week without the usual press release, call for maintaining public access to shorelines, favouring construction of affordable housing and public services, such as a school, in any future residential areas and making private housing construction — a key element of the plans of Mayor Valérie Plante’s administration and a group of developers — contingent on “harmonious” integration with existing economic activity in the sector.

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“We … insist that the introduction of housing be planned in such a way as to be compatible with the economic vocation of the sector, ensuring harmonious cohabitation between the different functions,” the three independent OCPM commissioners who presided over the public consultation say in the 124-page report dated Nov. 14.

“In addition, the city is invited to adopt better practices in sustainable development and ecological transition throughout the sector, while all planning would benefit from considering the creation of eco-districts.”

Sound environmental actions, it adds, would include preserving existing green spaces, particularly near Cité-du-Havre, ecological water management, requiring environmental certifications before building, preserving biodiversity and requiring carbon neutrality in new projects.

Map of Bridge-Bonaventure area

The 2.3-square-kilometre Bridge-Bonaventure sector stretches from the western edge of the Old Port to the Victoria Bridge and Samuel-De Champlain Bridge, and it includes Cité du Havre.

The master plan for the sector that was unveiled by the Plante administration envisions construction of 7,600 residential units, such as condos and apartments, two new REM stations and the addition of 12 kilometres of bike paths and five kilometres of public shoreline access. It also calls for 20 per cent of the residential units to be social housing, 20 per cent “family” housing, and 20 per cent affordable housing — thereby respecting the city’s Bylaw for a Diverse Metropolis, also known as the 20-20-20 bylaw.

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A group of developers and architects released their own plan for the sector, the latest version of which includes 9,700 residential units built starting in 2025, up from an earlier estimate of about 7,500, plus four 40-storey buildings instead of one.

The OCPM report doesn’t come down on one side or the other — in fact, it doesn’t recommend any target number of residential units. But it recommends the city explore ways, including through regulatory requirements, to ensure development “exceeds the targets of the Bylaw for a Diverse Metropolis in terms of social and affordable housing.”

Other recommendations include:

  • Expressing in the administration’s master plan a desire to create “financially accessible” housing adapted to the needs of targeted clients;
  • Requiring that municipal authorities — as opposed to developers — carry out studies on the impact of project proposals that flow from the master plan on civil security and public health. This is due to the presence of industry and trucking in the sector;
  • Adopting more restrictive regulations, including for building densities and distances between future buildings, in order to preserve views;
  • That the city’s master plan for Bridge-Bonaventure “confirm the impossibility of privatizing the shorelines so that they remain for the benefit of the entire Montreal population”;
  • Having the city reserve land to establish “shared collective facilities” in the sector, and to guarantee the addition of a school.

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The Urban Development Institute, an organization representing developers, isn’t commenting at this time on the OCPM’s Bridge-Bonaventure report, Carl Cloutier, vice-president operations for the UDI, said Friday.

A social housing activist said the report is vague on the social housing requirements the commissioners want to see, but he welcomes several of the recommendations.

“In general, I think it’s a good report,” said Éric Michaud, coordinator of Habiter Ville-Marie. OCPM recommendations that he described as “interesting” include:

  • regulating heights and densities in the Pointe-du-Moulin area of Bridge-Bonaventure to prevent construction of buildings as tall as Silo No. 5;
  • requiring “sensitive” uses, such as housing, to be built at least 100 metres from activities that are sources of disturbances and health risks; and
  • requiring the land in the Pointe St-Charles north “triangle” near the railway tracks to serve for uses other than housing, such as institutional, community and commercial activities.

Michaud also said he’s pleased to see a recommendation that Montreal prioritize the transfer of Mill, Oak, Des Irlandais and Riverside Sts. to the city before the Bridge-Bonaventure master plan goes into effect.

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As The Gazette reported in June, Canada Lands, a federal Crown corporation, is on the verge of selling the federal-owned Pointe-du-Moulin to a private developer — and with it, the section of Mill between the Bonaventure Expressway and the Mill St. Bridge, which serves as the entrance to the Old Port. As a result, the city will have to negotiate with the winning developer to acquire the portion of Mill leading to the Old Port, Canada Lands said.

The OCPM report is dated eight days after the Journal de Montréal revealed the tabs for meals and trips that were expensed by Isabelle Beaulieu, who was appointed OCPM president in 2022, current OCPM secretary general Guy Grenier, his predecessor Luc Doray, and Dominique Ollivier, who presided the OCPM from 2014 to 2021.

Plante called for Beaulieu and Grenier’s resignations while maintaining support for Ollivier, who is a Projet Montréal city councillor. The latter has said her expenses as OCPM chief were reasonable, but stepped down as city executive committee chairperson due to what she called racist and “violent” messages from the public in the wake of the scandal.

Beaulieu stressed to a city council committee that was examining the OCPM financial scandal two weeks ago that the OCPM report on Bridge-Bonaventure had been submitted to Plante’s office on Nov. 14.

The Projet Montréal majority and the Ensemble Montréal opposition on city council voted to fire Beaulieu last week.

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The OCPM report notes it received 113 briefs from the public on Bridge-Bonaventure, heard from 61 people at the hearings and fielded 336 online comments and responses on the master plan.

The OCPM’s recommendations aren’t binding on city hall.

The OCPM recommended in 2019 that car traffic be maintained on Camillien-Houde Way and Remembrance Rd. on Mount Royal, but transform them into a slow-moving, scenic drive. However, Plante ignored the recommendation in announcing this year that Camillien-Houde will be shut to cars by 2027.

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