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T.M.R. planning redevelopment of Rockland sector

The Gazette logo The Gazette 2020-10-22 Linda Gyulai, Montreal Gazette
diagram, engineering drawing: Town of Mount Royal has announced a redevelopment plan for the Rockland shopping centre and surrounding area. © Provided by The Gazette Town of Mount Royal has announced a redevelopment plan for the Rockland shopping centre and surrounding area.

Development pressure is knocking at the doors of Town of Mount Royal — literally.

So T.M.R. Mayor Philippe Roy says the municipality has decided to pre-empt developers and come up with a framework for any future projects at its four entrances — around Rockland shopping centre next to the Metropolitan expressway and L’Acadie Blvd.; around Beaumont shopping centre near Jean-Talon St. W.; at Lucerne Rd. near the Met; and at Jean-Talon St. and Laird Blvd., near Côte-des-Neiges Rd.

To start, the town launched a public consultation on Wednesday on a special planning program to transform the Rockland sector with more green space, public transit and a bike path, along with a mix of condos, townhouses, offices and commercial activity.

“We said last year when we passed the municipal budget that the town wanted to revise the future of its four entrances,” Roy said.

“Because we have commercial at the four entrances to T.M.R., how do we manage the commercial, how do we try to add more green space and how do we encourage public transit? So we started with Rockland, and in 2021 we plan to do Beaumont. And in the next years we’ll do the others.”

The pandemic is forcing an online consultation giving residents two weeks to submit their comments, Roy said. However, the council has agreed on the need for a virtual presentation and question-and-answer period, which will be announced in the coming days for the first week of November.

“We’re not in a rush,” Roy said. “If we sense that people need more than two weeks, we’ll extend the deadline. It’s a vision for the future. So if we need a few more weeks, we’ll take them.”

The plan that is posted online shows Rockland shopping centre, but it replaces its outdoor parking areas with three-storey townhouses to the south along Sloane Ave. and taller, higher-density buildings to the north along the Met. It also foresees a new grid of streets replacing the centre’s aboveground parking garage to create more entrances to L’Acadie and reduce congestion on Rockland Rd.

“We don’t want to see Rockland go,” Roy said.

But T.M.R. wants to ensure any future redevelopment plans for the mall by its owner, Cominar, a real estate investment trust in which the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec owns a stake, will necessarily involve building underground parking, Roy added.

“We’re creating a framework,” he said. “We’re sending a message to the owner of the land saying here’s the playing field and if you come and propose projects, we’ll see according to that.”

The Rockland sector is at a crossroads given the uncertain future of shopping centres, Roy said. Cominar has announced plans to densify other malls it owns in the Montreal region with residential construction.

T.M.R.’s plan for the Rockland sector also includes an extension of Brittany Ave., a bike path and a shuttle service to transport residents to the future REM stations in T.M.R. CDPQ Infra Inc. is also building a REM station across from Rockland on the north side of the Met in St-Laurent borough. However, Roy said the Caisse de dépôt subsidiary hasn’t yet indicated whether and how T.M.R. residents will be able to get to it.

In all, about 300 to 350 new residential units could be built in the sector under the plan, Roy said, adding that the town is not seeking major population growth.

“There’s no big densification project in T.M.R.,” Roy said. “We’re not expecting to have the population suddenly increase. There’s no desire from the municipality to move towards that.”

However, Roy and his council have to contend with skepticism from residents who were critical of the town’s acceptance of the Royalmount project.

T.M.R. resident Paul Malouf, who runs a Facebook page called Sauvons VMR — Save TMR, said he’s not against development but worries that piecemeal planning deprives the town of adequate planning of schools, green spaces and other services.

“It’s all piecemeal,” he said.

“Where’s the vision for T.M.R. in 2035? What kind of mix do we want? If we have all these projects for the four entrances, why can’t we have an adult discussion with the town proposing everything in one document? Put it all together and say ‘What do you think?’ and get our feedback.”

In response, Roy said he believes T.M.R. doesn’t require an update to its urban plan “because for 90 per cent of the town, we find it’s working well.”

As for not bringing a redevelopment plan for all four entrances to T.M.R. at once, Roy said it was a question of resources.

“We didn’t have the staff to get started on all four at once,” he said. “So we’re going step by step, by priority. Rockland and Beaumont, we expected the property owners will approach us soon. So we’re establishing the rules of play right away.”

lgyulai@postmedia.com

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