Old Port of Montreal

Old Port of Montreal unveils new master plan

Historic site may see more mixed use, expanded access to St. Lawrence River
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
By Rebecca Melnyk

A preliminary master plan for the Old Port of Montreal imagines a dynamic waterfront site with renewed green space, more public areas and closer access to the St. Lawrence River.

About six million people visit the Old Port every year, making it one of the top tourist sites in Quebec. The plan, unveiled yesterday, reflects the ideas of hundreds of Montrealers who were involved in public consultations over the past two years.

It refers to, for example, improved waterfront access. Plans call for expanded entrances, underpasses and stepped plazas down to the river, new pedestrian bridges across the water and extending the promenade down to the marina.

The makeover also redefines the Clock Tower Pier as a “new destination.” An existing larger ground-level parking lot will give way to new cultural and recreational uses, including a hotel, which complement current attractions like the skating rink, Clock Tower beach, as well as a potential “harbour bath” that would allow swimming in cordoned off areas of the river.

Clock Tower Pier

Clock Tower Pier

Basil Cavis, vice-president of the Old Port of Montreal, remembers his parents bringing him down to the Old Port as a child, to see the water and walk around. He describes the Old Port as a “vital, constantly evolving site.”

Other changes include transforming the very western portion of the Pointe-du-Moulin into a new mixed-use area that allows for office, retail, residential and institutional buildings. These new additions, including the green space, will positively impact nearby assets in the city.

“It will bring new life, says Cavis. “We’re just adjacent to Old Montreal, so one of the really important elements is opening up Old Montreal and improving the various plazas that make it attractive for folks to come and visit.”

Old Port of Montreal

Designated a historic site in 1963, the plan pays homage to the port’s long legacy of economy and culture.

“It’s the birthplace of Montreal. There is a very long history of marine activity, there were different piers built and reconstructed over the years,” Cavis adds “Our promenade, which is 2.5 kilometres long, is going to highlight some of that previous infrastructure and show it to visitors through interpretation, landscaping elements, and so forth.”

The redevelopment also includes a pedestrian bridge and panoramic elevator to the upper floors of Silo 5, an industrial building first constructed by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1903. There are breathtaking views to be had, specifically of downtown Montreal and the Montérégie region. Old conveyors will be partially retrofitted into an elevated conveyor promenade, providing the chance to grasp the industrial heritage of the site and offer new views of the city, the Lachine Canal and the river.

Overall, the vision lays out an opportunity to reconnect the city, Old Port and the river as one. This could mean creating a large linear park linking Old Montreal, the piers and waterfront. New public squares would “act as connectors” to the Clock Tower, Jacques Cartier, King Edward and Alexandra Piers, as well as to the Point-du-Moulin. They would also extend Old Montreal to the river as site entrances and open up views to and from the city and water.

Place Jacques-Cartier

Place Jacques-Cartier

Site access, mobility and parking will also be reconfigured, along with a dedicated bike path swirling parallel to de la Commune Street. This will link the existing paths in Old Montréal and along the Lachine Canal.

New pedestrian bridges will link the various sectors of the Old Port, creating a six-kilometer looped circuit that culminates in a breathtaking view from the top of Silo 5. Two new parking lots will be added at the east and west ends of the site.

Then to Now

This isn’t the first time the Old Port has reinvented itself. Once a trading post for fur in the 1600s, the port evolved into Canada’s primary hub for rail and maritime transport by the mid-19th century, and became the grain port of Canada by the 1920s. Decades later, after port activities moved east to a different locale, Canada began redeveloping the vacant lands. The Old Port of Montreal Corporation, a subsidy of Canada Lands Company, was established. Soon, rail lines were removed and a linear park was created along Rue de la Commune.

Old Port of Montreal

View of the Old Port from east to west, circa 1875. Photo courtesy of The Montreal Port Authority.

Over the years, the waterfront has seen many physical transformations, such as the restoration of the Clock Tower and a grain elevator being demolished to improve access to the river. Twenty-five years ago, the first master plan was submitted, making the site what it is today – a hub for cultural and leisure activities.

When Montreal celebrated its 350th birthday in 1992, the “New Old Port of Montreal” was celebrated, seeing the subsequent rise of the Montreal Science Centre and the reopening of the Lachine Canal to pleasure boaters.

This year marks another milestone as Montreal turns 375. Once the final plan is submitted, it will roll out in multiple phases over the next 10 to 15 years, guiding future development efforts at the site for many more birthdays to come.

Now in a consultation stage, the public and other organizations are invited to complete the online survey on the preliminary master plan from June 12 to July 12. Or, they can view the 3D model of the project and share their reactions during public consultations that will be held on June 15, 16 and 17, from noon to 8 p.m., in a tent on the Old Port site.

“The Old Port is a Montreal icon and attracts many tourists every year, said Marc Miller, Member of Parliament for Ville-Marie – Le Sud-Ouest – Île-des-Sœurs. “It is important that its revitalization correspond to what Montrealers want to show the world. This public forum will ensure that the Old Port’s development will take place in a collaborative and inclusive manner. “

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