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New working group pledges to accelerate Hippodrome housing development

Click to play video: 'Will Montreal’s old Hippodrome site finally get new lease on life?'
Will Montreal’s old Hippodrome site finally get new lease on life?
WATCH: The city of Montreal says it has found new momentum for the future housing development on the grounds of the old Hippodrome. There are no shovels in the ground just yet and there is still no firm timeline of when work will begin. But authorities promise a new committee they've put in place holds the key to moving things forward. Global's Dan Spector reports – May 29, 2023

The government says it has created new momentum for the future housing development on the grounds of Montreal’s old Hippodrome site.

There are no shovels in the ground just yet and there is still no firm timeline for when work will begin, but authorities promise a new committee they’ve put in place holds the key to moving things forward.

“We’re moving forward with this project. Really there’s a lot of enthusiasm right now,” said Montreal mayor Valérie Plante .

A horse racing hub for more than a century, the sprawling patch of land just west of Décarie has been abandoned since 2009.

According to a group of high-profile elected officials, the transformation of the old Blue Bonnets into a new modern neighbourhood will soon be galloping ahead.

The city and the province have announced the creation of a new 14-person working group devoted to turning the land into a dynamic housing development as early as 2025.

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“I’m very confident we have the right people around the table, knowledgeable people, who will make things happen,” said Quebec Housing Minister France Elaine Duranceau.

If you were itching to have another acronym in your life, the new committee is called GALOPH, or Groupe D’accélération pour L’Optimisation du Projet de l’Hippodrome.

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It’s made up of officials from the city of Montreal, the Quebec government, real estate developers, community organizations and more.

Claridge CEO Pierre Boivin is co-president of the new entity.

“There’s still a lot of questions, more questions than there are answers, and … that’s our job,” said Boivin.

With the province in the throes of a housing crisis, the goal is to create at least 6,000 new units.

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The city wants there to be social and affordable housing, a school and links to public transit.

Centraide Montréal  president Claude Pinard will be among those making sure the less fortunate are represented.

“Our job is to help carry the voice of the neighbourhood,” he told Global News.

The land has been in the hands of the city since 2017. It’s been the subject of a public consultation, lots of discussions and negotiations, but nothing’s yet been built.

“Four or five years of planning has led to this announcement, so hopefully it won’t be four or five years until the shovels are in the ground,” said Claridge executive chairman Stephen Bronfman, who attended the press conference announcing the working group.

One major topic the group will tackle is how to fund infrastructure like plumbing, sewers and electricity in the area.

“That’s huge,” said Plante. “I’m not going to go with numbers, but those are high high numbers, and it cannot be solely … on Montreal taxpayers.”

The opposition at city hall is skeptical of the new working group.

“They’re famous for organizing summits, for creating committees, for creating tables where people can talk, but very little action,” Saint-Laurent borough mayor Alan de Sousa said of the Plante Administration.

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“We’ve got to get out of the imagination into the reality of actually having footings in the ground.”

Nobody can yet say exactly when ground will be broken at the old Blue Bonnets, but Pinard said the new committee is planning to have a business plan ready by November.

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