by Joel Ceausu
The borough of CDN-NDG has taken the first step in the redevelopment of the old Blue Bonnets site, with council authorized demolition of existing buildings, the majority of which were built in the late 1950s.
The property along with its clubhouse and various structures has no recognized heritage value, and the first swings of the wrecking ball will bring an end to its 108-year-old equestrian vocation.
The transfer agreement between the Quebec government – which owns the Hippodrome site – and the city of Montreal, stipulates that buildings must be demolished before the city can develop the property as home to thousands of families and help put the brakes on urban sprawl in Montreal.
The territory is identified as part of the larger Namur/De la Savane strategic planning area in the agglomeration’s recently adopted Schéma d’aménagement et de développement.
The demolition approval allows for the maintenance of a shed and mechanical equipment for connection to electric utilities or related to water pumping with a maximum height of four metres, and requires at least one replacement project within 60 months of issuing the first demo permit.
Other conditions include a filed plan to reuse demolition waste, and within 90 days of razing each building the site must be free of all materials, leveled to prevent water accumulation, covered with topsoil and greened.
For the property’s development, city planners are considering the site’s association with horse racing and the track itself, views of the city and Mont-Royal, and the presence of natural elements, including a wooded border. Other important factors are heavy traffic and transport issues in a fragmented sector; public spaces for pedestrians and cyclists, particularly for access to metro stations; real estate development; the lack of underground infrastructure, and presence of significant heat islands with a need to improve greening.
The province has to complete the demolition and certify the land as free of contamination, as per the original plan slating ownership transfer for December 2014. “Obviously that hasn’t happened,” says Snowdon councillor Rotrand, adding that the borough’s planning advisory committee (CCU) does not actually set a date for demolition. “After everything fell through the cracks last year and nothing was, done, we put things back on track, we’ve approve demolition so we are operating under the assumption that it will be done immediately so they can still meet their original timeline. We should see some action in a couple of months, again we’re assuming, and sometime in the autumn the clubhouse should be gone. If it isn’t the case I intend to raise the issue again.”