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Superhospital's arrival means major changes for neighbourhood

Superhospital's arrival means major changes for neighbourhood

Superhospital's arrival means major changes for neighbourhood
 

A view of Upper Lachine Rd. facing northwest, viewed from the intersection of Old Orchard Ave. in the neighbourhood of St-Raymond.

Photograph by: Dario Ayala , The Gazette

MONTREAL — Notre-Dame-de-Grâce will change dramatically when the MUHC superhospital opens in 2015 — and groups attending public consultation on the future of the neighbourhood want to make sure the changes are for the better.

Once the hospital opens, about 12,000 people are expected to converge on the site every day. A daily influx of 4,100 cars is expected.

On Monday, the Office de consultation publique de Montréal began hearings on the area around the McGill University Health Centre site, including the St-Raymond district, just west of the hospital. Hearings continue March 12 and March 18.

Danger zones for cyclists and female pedestrians, as well as concerns about gentrification and isolating residents, are among the issues groups are putting forward.

Here’s a look at some of what six groups say in their briefs to the OCPM:

The N.D.G.’s Women’s Group fears a “no women zone” will be created when the city shuts Upper Lachine Rd. where it now meets Décarie and de Maisonneuve Blvds. The city plans to turn the Upper Lachine underpass into a “public space” for pedestrians and cyclists.

That underpass links the St. Raymond district to the nearby Vendôme métro station. It is to be closed to cars in 2014 when the city remakes the intersection to improve car access to the hospital’s entrance on Décarie Blvd.

The new public space in the underpass will become “an expanse that has no activity planned for it other than pedestrians and cyclists transitioning through it,” the women’s group warns. “Women will not likely feel comfortable using that route at night and during low-usage periods or at ease letting their children do so.”

The group wants Upper Lachine kept open, even if only for buses, “thus assuring that there are at least some eyes on the surrounding area.”

Worried about gentrification and clinics and doctors’ offices pushing out residents, it also wants the Côte-des-Neiges—N.D.G. borough to invest in social and affordable housing in St-Raymond.

The N.D.G. Cycling and Pedestrian Association is calling on the city to rethink its plans for the de Maisonneuve bike path, which connects N.D.G. and downtown.

The stretch between Décarie Blvd. and Claremont Ave., which includes the area in front of the Vendôme métro station, has long been a sore point for cyclists who complain there is little protection from cars and buses. As many as 2,000 cyclists per day use this stretch of the path.

After the hospital opens, the situation will worsen for cyclists, the association says.

“The Décarie-Claremont missing link ... will remain the key obstacle to residents switching from cars to bikes, and N.D.G. will increasingly become an enclave with no safe exit or entrance.”

The association is urging Montreal to build a bike/pedestrian bridge over Décarie Blvd., with a path continuing behind de Maisonneuve buildings until Claremont.

Citing space and security concerns, the city has rejected the bridge idea.

The Westmount Walking and Cycling Association backs the bridge idea.

In its brief, it also suggests “the lack of walking and cycling paths from (St-Henri to the hospital) is a major urban planning failure.”

The association also decries the decision to close Upper Lachine. “We see it as essentially the isolation of an existing community, St-Raymond, for the sake of car traffic to the MUHC.”

The Groupe en Recherche Urbaine, an urban-planning group headed by architect Pierre Brisset, also wants Upper Lachine kept open. It suggests the closing is not necessary and would, among other things, delay by about 10 minutes the 90 and 104 bus routes.

In addition, it suggests Quebec can easily redesign its new Turcot Interchange to avoid having to demolish the St. Jacques St. overpass above the Décarie Expressway,

Between the fall of 2013 and the winter of 2015, St. Jacques St. will be closed between Addington St. and Décarie Blvd. so the section over the Décarie Expressway can be rebuilt to accommodate the new Turcot design.

N.D.G. residents have complained this will cut them off from a key downtown access.

Projet Montréal says the Upper Lachine closing should be cancelled, or at least delayed until the Turcot Interchange is rebuilt. And it says a bike/pedestrian bridge at Décarie would be the best way to make cycling safer.

In St-Raymond, 77 per cent of residents live in rented dwellings, the unemployment rate is 12.6 per cent and almost half of residents live under the poverty line, the party says in its brief. It wants the city to invest in social and affordable housing there so people are not forced out by gentrification.

Vision Montreal said little has been done to link the hospital to St-Henri and the rest of the Sud-Ouest borough. It wants pedestrian and bike connections improved.

In addition, it is calling for a bike path and public spaces to be built on the St. Jacques escarpment. Known as the Falaise St. Jacques, it is topped by St. Jacques St.; below are the former Turcot rail yards.

Until a second pedestrian tunnel is built between the Vendôme métro station and the hospital, Vision said a shuttle bus should be put in place for transit users.

The Office de consultation publique de Montréal hearings continue March 12 and March 18, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., at Centre Communautaire St-Raymond, 5600 Upper Lachine Rd. For more information, visit ocpm.qc.ca

ariga@montrealgazette.com

Twitter: @andyriga