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Montreal Unveils Plan for New 40,000-Person Neighbourhood: A City Within a City

On April 19, the City of Montreal unveiled a new plan to transform a former horse racing track into a neighborhood that could accommodate up to 40,000 residents after facing numerous setbacks.

Mayor Valérie Plante described the project as a “city within a city,” highlighting that half of the 20,000 units intended for the site, including the area around the old Hippodrome, will be allocated for affordable housing.

Previous attempts to develop the site had failed, with the most recent one in 2022 when no companies expressed interest in building housing due to lack of water infrastructure connections to the land.

However, this time, Mayor Plante emphasized that the city has federal support in tackling the national housing crisis. Ottawa, Quebec, and Montreal are investing $6 million in technical studies to determine optimal ways to link the area to city infrastructure and public transportation.

The vision for the project includes creating a complete neighborhood with schools, community spaces, cultural facilities, and possibly a tramway. Mayor Plante envisions accommodating a population equivalent to a town like Boucherville or Rouyn-Noranda within Montreal.

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Pierre Boivin, CEO of Claridge, expressed confidence in the new development model for the property, citing significant changes over the past year with provincial and federal governments eager to accelerate affordable housing initiatives.

With the potential involvement of the Canada Infrastructure Bank in financing the water infrastructure network, there is hope that the project will finally move forward. Mr. Boivin mentioned that Montreal alone couldn’t afford the necessary $1.4 billion for infrastructure.

Despite lacking private investors currently due to the absence of infrastructure, Mr. Boivin highlighted the importance of the Infrastructure Bank of Canada’s new potential partnership, which was not available a year ago.

Consultations are scheduled for later in the year, and construction could commence in 2025. The estimated cost of the project over a decade is $8 billion. Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser and Quebec Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau attended the announcement but did not disclose their respective investments in the project.

An opposition councilor criticized the city’s announcement, expressing concerns about the lack of tangible progress after seven years of city ownership. He emphasized the need for financial commitments from all levels of government to establish necessary underground infrastructures before real estate development can begin.

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