Projet Montreal promises to relocate Bridge Street, build Black Rock memorial park

Click to play video: 'Projet Montréal promises to build Black Rock memorial park to honour the city’s Irish community'
Projet Montréal promises to build Black Rock memorial park to honour the city’s Irish community
WATCH: To pay tribute to the 6,000 Irish who died of typhus in the late 1840s, Projet Montréal is promising to provide a place of remembrance in the city for the Irish community. Global's Olivia O'Malley has more – Oct 23, 2021

If re-elected, Projet Montreal is promising to invest $15 million towards redesigning the area around the Black Rock monument for Montreal’s Irish Community in Pointe-Saint-Charles.

The monument currently sits on a median, in between four lanes of heavy traffic on Bridge Street, at the foot of the Victoria Bridge. The only safe way for pedestrians to view the rock is from across the street.

“We commit to move Bridge Street in order to make a big, beautiful park, a Black Rock that is no longer surrounded by lanes of traffic,” said city councillor Craig Sauvé, who represents Saint-Henri — Little-Burgundy — Pointe-Saint-Charles.

In the plans, Bridge Street would be moved east. The proposed park starts at Des Irlandais street and continues north for about a block. Those involved tell Global News the park will be close to 4.3 acres.

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“We won’t have to move the rock with this scenario,” said Sauvé.

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Victor Boyle, the director of the Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation, along with other members of the Irish community have been fighting to move Bridge Street for decades.

He tells Global News that he is happy the plan makes the Black Rock more accessible for pedestrians. More importantly, Boyle said it respects the thousands of Irish buried in the area near the boulder.

The three-meter-tall boulder known as the Black Rock honours the 6,000 Irish immigrants that died from typhus upon arriving in Montreal in 1847.

“It helps preserve the integrity of the cemetery. It’s not just a showpiece. It’s to protect the 6,000 bodies and people that are buried beneath us,” said Boyle.

Boyle said the park would also be a way to share the story of 1847, when residents came together to care for the sick immigrants during the typhus epidemic.

“I think it’s a story that demonstrates some of the values of Montreal — that solidarity, generosity, welcoming of new arrival, the immigrants to Montreal. It’s a beautiful story to tell. It’s an important story,” said Sauvé.

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In January 2020, the current administration told members of the Irish community that the city aims to create a memorial park. Now it’s an electoral promise, and construction will only start in 2025.

Sauvé told Global News that “during the past four years, a lot of work’s been done,” adding that the project has moved forward with the help of a committee that includes members of the Irish community, the city and Hydro Quebec, which owns a majority of the land.

The announcement’s timing doesn’t bother Boyle. He said, “the fact that they made the announcement close to an election, as far as I’m concerned, is not an issue as much as the fact that we are where we are and we will continue to move forward.”

Global News contacted Ensemble Montreal and Mouvement Montreal for comment. We did not receive a reply by deadline.

With the luck of the Irish on their side, Boyle said the community is committed to seeing the project through no matter who wins the municipal election.

“I know we’re in a spot now where this is definitely, definitely going to happen,” he added.

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