Carbon-neutral dream for hippodrome site will be difficult: consultation office

Creating a carbon-neutral neighbourhood on the former Hippodrome site will be a challenge, according to a report by the city’s public consultation office.

The city wants to transform the area around the old Blue Bonnets racetrack into a neighbourhood on the leading-edge of sustainability.

But, the area is sandwiched between two major highways, and lacks the infrastructure that would allow residents to get to and from the site without a car.

“There will have to be a lot busses, electric busses. Things need to be done for this to happen, but I truly believe in this project,” Mayor Valerie Plante said on Thursday.

“I certainly do not want a development where everybody has one, two, or three cars,” said Sue Montgomery, mayor of Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace.

The borough wants to play a leading role in the development of the site -- a rare opportunity of this size -- in a big city.

“We do not want to make the mistake of the Triangle and Griffintown,” Montgomery said. “[They are] two developments with tons of high rises, and then as soon as it was built it was like oh, we don’t have schools, we don’t have daycares, we don’t have grocery stores.”

In its 121-page report, the public consultation office stressed the important of going ahead with the long debated Cavendish extension to help reduce traffic.

“In 2012, the City of Montreal got the Hippodrome land from Quebec under the condition that they extend Cavendish,” said Mitchell Brownstein, mayor of Cote-Saint-Luc. “They put money in their budget for Cavendish and they did, but the money is not there now.” 

Advocates want to see 2,500 social housing units in the new development.

“It reflects the amount of people on the waiting list for social housing in Cote-des-Neiges and NDG,” said Darby MacDonald, of Project Genesis, a housing rights group that has been fighting for this kind of development on the site, since the nineties.

“This is a real opportunity to make an example of what social developments can and should look like in Montreal,” she said.

Mayor Plante has been an ally of social housing groups in the past, but given the report’s 41 recommendations, there remains a lot of work to be done before breaking ground.

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