Five years after the city of Montreal announced a plan to transform Blue Bonnets into a housing development, the project may finally be getting underway.

Finance Minister Carlos Leitao announced Tuesday afternoon that the province of Quebec has officially ceded the land to the City of Montreal.

In the works since 2012, the province has repeatedly delayed transferring the land to the city.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said the city will finance studies to finally extend Cavendish Blvd. as part of the development plans. This spring, Montreal earmarked $24.5 million for the Cavendish extension.

"I think it's a win-win situation," said Coderre.

While the Blue Bonnets racetrack was demolished in 2012, the buildings adjacent to the oval were abandoned.

Now, the city is once again saying a call for tenders will go out this summer, with work beginning at the end of October.

The current estimates are that 5,000 housing units will be built on the site 30 percent of which will be social/affordable housing. (In 2012, officials talked about constructing 8,000 homes.)

Part of the city's mandate is to keep young families on the island, and CDN-NDG borough mayor Russell Copeman believes this development could do that.

"We feel we can design a community that's largely based on public transit, on active transit that will not contribute to traffic chaos in the neighbourhood,' said Copeman.

Housing groups said it's a good start, but they would like to see at least 2,500 social housing units for rent.

"There's a real opportunity to create a development on Blue Bonnets that responds to local needs and that's certainly what we'll be fighting for in the coming years," said Claire Abraham of Project Genesis.

Cavendish extension is key to managing traffic

One of the ongoing concerns has been traffic in the area.

Off the record, city planners say traffic around the Jean Talon/Decarie Blvd. intersection operates at more than 200 percent capacity, and have admitted that bringing construction trucks to the site will cause tremendous traffic delays.

One possible solution is the decades-old dream of extending Cavendish Blvd. and giving drivers some other to cross the rail yards in Cote St. Luc.

"We are in the next step, so it's very tangible," said Coderre.

The discussion has been ongoing for decades but the new housing development could finally provide the impetus to make it happen.

Negotiations with CN and CP have been taking place for years, but officials are hopeful the logjam is about to break.

"This is actually a process in progress and let's say I'm fairly confident,' said city councillor Pierre Desrochers.

“Now five years later, miraculously, a day after we have a town hall meeting in Cote Saint Luc about Cavendish, where we had a packed room tonight and a lot of people interested in what's going to happen, we see that this deal may finally be in play. And that's the key. You cannot build a housing development of 8000 units, about 20,000 residents, and leave it at that. You need to have the route,” said Cote Saint Luc city councillor Mike Cohen.

The Cavendish extension work could start in 2022.

Construction on the Blue Bonnets site must begin in the next two years.

The sale and transfer of the first housing unit on the Hippodrome site must take place by 2023. 

If the city fails to alter the zoning on the site by 2023, the province will regain control of the area.