Imagine a train station very close to the intersection of the underused sector of Henri-Bourassa and Marcel-Laurin boulevards in Saint-Laurent, France. In this forward-thinking arrondisement, green, sustainable development is the only option for the future. Moving forward, businesses and residences aiming for LEED certification, as well as green spaces that favor walking or biking will be developed in this area.
After several years of negotiations between the land owners and the arrondisement, everything is in place to create a dynamic urban neighborhood, which will become the natural continuation of the Bois-Franc neighborhood. The Groupe Mach, which in 2006 bought a strip of industrial-zoned land zoned alongside the Marcel-Laurin Boulevard, has formed an alliance with Sotramont and Montclair. These companies own the remaining land in Bois-Franc, immediately behind it, and are building dwellings there. Together, they will fashion a landscape for living just a stone's throw away from the train station and a future metro station.
"We chose a principally residential zoning scheme for this land along the Henri-Bourassa Boulevard," explains Alan DeSousa, the Mayor of Saint-Laurent since November 2001. "Dwellings will be integrated in a commercial center, and terraces will provide public spaces. We want a lively and animated nexus for the neighborhood. A new road, Wilfrid-Reid, has been planned to connect with the train station and the new commercial center. There will also be a direct biking connection with the train station and three walkable paths, so that the residents of Bois-Franc can access this area more easily."
This new phase, christened Le Quartier (The Neighborhood), should amount to 1,400 units, of which at least 144 will be social housing (built under the direction of the Technical Resources Group for Building Your Neighborhood [Groupe de ressources techniques Bâtir son quartier]), and at least an additional 144 will be affordable housing, indicated Eric Paquet, Director of Urban Planning and Business Services in Saint-Laurent. The buildings will have an average of six to eight stories, and in certain locations will include commercial use.
At the same time, in the background, the third phase of the Bois-Franc neighborhood is coming to life on a part of the old Challenger Golf course. Around 1,400 dwellings (row houses, duplex row houses and condos) remain to be built.
All these dwellings (except for the community housing) should be built with LEED-Silver certification in mind, awarded by the Council on Sustainable Building in Canada (Conseil du bâtiment durable du Canada) or its American counterpart, the U.S. Green Building Council. This demand almost goes without saying in this arrondisement, headed by a mayor who makes it a point to lead the way in green construction.
The Saint-Laurent Centre Corporatif, inaugurated by the Groupe Montoni in 2011, is the first industrial park made up of LEED buildings in Canada, and the list of LEED-Certified municipal, industrial, commercial and residential buildings in Saint Laurent ceases to stop.
"It's one of the hot spots in North America, where we find one of the strongest concentrations of LEED certified buildings," reveals Emmanuel Cosgrove, director of Ecohabitation Evaluations, the organization that supports Quebec builders aiming for LEED Canada certification for their dwellings.
The LEED Certification program recommends a holistic approach. Points are given out for the energy efficiency of the buildings, but also for the site's location and access to mass transit, its ecological planning, efficient water management, the choice of materials, etc.
"Everyone wins," believes Emmanuel Cosgrove, who, after having surveyed builders, estimates that the extra cost of building a LEED building is around two percent. "This demands a certain level of quality. It could be reassuring for the buyer of a house or a condo to know that everything has been thought out according to the most recent advances in technology. What's more, a third party inspects the construction."
This desire to innovate is contagious in Saint-Laurent. The supermarket IGA, which will establish itself in Le Quartier, alongside the Henri-Bourassa Boulevard, will be one of the largest in Quebec, and a large greenhouse to be set up on its roof is under consideration," reveals Pierre-Jacques Lefaivre, development vice-president for the Groupe Mach.
This enterprise has rented out its commercial spaces in the first two stories of the RW Montclair building to a Jean Coutu pharmacy, a Premiere Moisson bakery (which will have a terrace), a daytime nursery, and a spa. In another commercial building devoted primarily to dining, a cafe with a terrace will be established. Other businesses will be added during the last two phases.
These last few years, the Groupe Mach, Sotramont and Montclair have made an effort to compromise and come to an understanding in reaching an agreement with the arrondisement.
"It's very demanding to be in Saint-Laurent," indicates Marc-Andre Roy, Sotramont president. "But the final phase of Bois-Franc, will now be picking up. The businesses and dwellings, rather than being back-to-back, will be face-to-face, in an integrated way. This will benefit the residents."
Green Space and Density Around the Train Station
The planning of Le Quartier is part of a vast exercise aiming to bring value to terrains located within a one kilometer radius of the Bois-Franc train station, parts of the Henri-Bourassa Boulevard, and others, according to TOD (transit-oriented development) principles.
This concept, developed during the 1990s, aims to create dynamic and multifunctional neighborhoods within a 600 meter to 1 kilometer walking radius of mass transit. The car is no longer at the center of travel. In such places, we find a mix of activities around a commercial center, and everything should be accessible on foot.
It's no longer a question of waiting for an additional metro station to be built next to the train station (in such a way creating Montreal's third intermodal station outside of the city center) in order to improve on land planning, indicated Saint-Laurent Mayor Alan DeSousa.
The potential is enormous: at least 6,000 new living unites of different types (including those of Le Quartier) could be built inside this perimeter, as well as around 40,000 square meters of commercial and office space. In this high-density environment, green spaces will be abundant, and numerous measures have been taken in order to reduce the dependence on the automobile, and encourage walking and biking.
As far as sustainable development is concerned, the arrodisement will see that heat islands are reduced, that rain water is managed ecologically, and that car parking is reduced. It goes without saying that the buildings will aim for LEED certification.
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Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.