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10-year, $1B Parc Jean-Drapeau renovation plan will replace most parking lots with green spaces

Click to play video: 'Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau is getting a facelift' Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau is getting a facelift
The plan to improve Parc Jean-Drapeau will take 10 years and will focus on accessibility and green space. But the plan isn't sitting well with everyone. As Global’s Dan Spector explains, critics are questioning the plan itself and the timing of the announcement – Apr 14, 2021

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has announced an ambitious 10-year plan to upgrade Parc Jean-Drapeau. Her administration says the focus will be on making the park easier to access and turning parking lots and unused spaces into green space.

Whether you know it best for the Grand Prix, music festivals, Expo 67 or just taking a stroll, Parc Jean-Drapeau is a destination for thousands of Montrealers every year. According to the Plante administration, it’s time for a big facelift.

“This is such an exciting project, I believe, because what we’re saying is we’re giving Parc Jean-Drapeau back to Montrealers,” Plante said at a press conference Wednesday.

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Once a beloved concert venue, Place des Nations has been abandoned since 2016. As part of the sprawling upgrade, it will be completely redone. That’s one of dozens of improvements to come between now and 2030.

“This will be a legacy project for Montreal, that’s for sure,” Plante said.

Read more: Montreal’s Expo 67 marks 50th anniversary

The Cosmos Bridge linking Île Notre-Dame and Île Ste-Hélène will be completely transformed. There will be new walkways, waterfront spaces, art installations, gardens and more.

In order to add all that green, however, many parking lots will disappear. The mayor said currently 10 per cent of Parc Jean-Drapeau’s surface is taken up by parking lots. She wants to eliminate 80 per cent of those lots and turn them into green spaces. Parking will instead be concentrated in certain areas.

“We need that space, and we want to have a green recovery plan. This is exactly what we’re doing right now,” she said.

Two large parking lots will remain, including the ones at La Ronde amusement park and at the casino.

Ferry service from both Montreal and the South Shore will also be added. There will be a new parking structure at a brand new building being called the park’s mobility hub. Plante envisions people walking around downtown or the Old Port and then taking a ferry to Parc Jean-Drapeau. She says the park will still be accessible by car.

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“You will park in a place from where there might be an electric shuttle, or there you’re going to be able to rent a bike, so accessibility will be there,” she explained.

One Parc Jean-Drapeau staff member told Global News approximately 1,000 parking spots will be lost, but emphasized that when major events are not taking over the park, most of the lots are empty.

Read more: Blue collar worker fights alleged racism at Parc Jean-Drapeau

Opposition leader Lionel Perez said according to his party’s calculations, more than 3,000 spots will disappear.

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“That’s very worrisome for families, people with elderly family members. Let’s not forget that the metro is not universally accessible,” he said.

The Parc Jean-Drapeau metro station is not wheelchair accessible, but officials are hoping to change that in the coming years.

The project will progress gradually, and parking will not be upgraded before other transit infrastructure is in place.

With an election this fall, Perez says the announcement is just the mayor campaigning to her base.

“This announcement is premature and electoral in nature,” he said.

The price tag for the project is an estimated $970 million. The city says it is in talks with the province, the federal government and private partners to help pay the bill.

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