What does the future of McGill College Ave. look like?
The street in front of McGill University that bears the school’s name is going to undergo major changes, but what exactly that change will look like is shaping up to be a major debate.
On Sunday the public was invited to see some of the potential designs for the future of the boulevard.
The area around McGill is in for major upheaval in the coming years, with renovations to that portion of Ste-Catherine and construction of a station for the upcoming REM light-rail system already on the docket. Plante said she’s spoken to businesses in the area who have expressed support, as long as the work is done quickly.
“The businesses are behind us. Even for Ste-Catherine, once we presented the plans and a good strategy for all the work that needs to be done, they were behind us,” she said.
With all that other work either scheduled or already underway, Plante said there was no set start date for work on McGill College to begin.
“I’m not going to share a date right now because the sequence is crucial to make sure everything happens right,” she said. “With respect to all the businesses around and people coming for work, we want to make sure this is well planned.”
In the past, the Plante administration has floated the idea of turning McGill College Ave. into a pedestrian-only zone, but the city’s office of public consultations has recommended against shutting down car traffic on the street.
Architect and urban planner Miguel Escobar said he’s worried the city already has a result in mind.
“I think the approach the city has taken is a bit biased in that they’ve already called it Place McGill College instead of Avenue McGill College,” he said. “They’ve already identified where they’re going instead of having a conversation about the future of the boulevard.”
Though the area hasn’t historically been a huge draw for tourists, Escobar noted that over the past several years it’s become a hub for restaurants and shopping. Cutting the street off from car traffic could starve those businesses of patrons, he said, pointing to Prince Arthur St., where there is little foot traffic during the winter months, as a failed experiment along similar lines.
“If you want to have tourists in town, you have to encourage commercial and retail. Over the years, restaurants and terraces have started popping up on the street. It’s not only due to pedestrians, it’s due to movement of cars and bicycles. You need that fluidity.”
Zvi Levy, a Montreal resident and mobility and accessibility consultant, called the meeting interesting and said he was glad to see the city exploring options. But he said that due to street’s geographic location and proximity to the city’s busiest metro station and the upcoming REM station, the the future of McGill College isn’t obvious.
“I think McGill College functions as a transition zone where it’s an interface between a number of different destinations,” he said. “I’m very worried they’re trying to convert it into a destination itself and I don’t think that’s going to work.”