After years of promises from various governments, construction could soon begin on the site of the former Hippodrome racetrack in the Montreal borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
The City of Montreal announced Monday a call for proposals to build hundreds of affordable housing units on the former racetrack, also known as the Blue Bonnets. It has been closed since 2009.
“We therefore call on all non-profit organizations active in housing to prepare their proposals,” Benoit Dorais, vice-president of the city’s executive committee, told reporters at a press conference.
Housing advocates call for action on Blue Bonnets Raceway pledges
The land is at the intersection of Clanranald Avenue and Jean-Talon Street. This is the first part of the property to be developed and the city insists that all units in this first phase will be affordable.
“For this project, it’s just over 200 (units),” explained the borough mayor, Gracia Kasoki Katahwa.
The plan, according to the city, is to make the development carbon neutral with an emphasis on pedestrians.
Emphasis will also be placed on accessibility to public transport, all zero emissions. The distance to the Namur metro station is about five minutes on foot.
“There will be no private parking or on-street parking,” said Robert Beaudry, member of the executive committee responsible for urban planning.
Monday’s announcement comes as a relief to housing groups who have been pushing for years to build social and affordable housing on the former Blue Bonnets track.
In 2013, the former mayor of Montreal, Gérald Tremblay, promised to include social housing in the development of the site.
Dorais said of Valérie Plante’s current administration, “we anticipate 6,000 units, the majority of which will be dedicated to social and affordable housing.”
Housing advocates say that, as exciting as Monday’s announcement is, they are only cautiously optimistic.
“We’ve also seen land in the neighborhood that is set aside for social housing, go on and on and be blocked off and undeveloped,” said Darby MacDonald of Project Genesis, a housing rights group.
She pointed to the site at 2520 Bates Rd. for example. In 2021, the city announced plans to build public housing on the site, but it is still empty.
The City of Montreal is invited to relax certain plans for the redevelopment of the Blue Bonnets
In a statement, the city blames the provincial government’s lack of funding for the construction delay on Bates Road.
“CDN-NDG and the City are committed to all ongoing social housing projects,” spokesperson Alicia Dufour wrote. “However, the government funds available under the AccèsLogis program are not enough to cover the current construction costs of many of these projects. This is why, in the context of the upcoming provincial elections, we believe it is important that the next Quebec government commit to adequately funding social and affordable housing projects.
Officials of the Popular Action Front in Urban Redevelopment (FRAPRU), another housing rights group, say they are happy that the first plot of land at the old hippodrome is being offered to non-profit organizations.
According to Catherine Lussier, FRAPRU community organizer, “the site should be 100% reserved for social housing projects. Côte-des-Neiges is one of the neighborhoods in Montreal where tenants are the poorest and live in the worst conditions.
Construction of the old racecourse is expected to begin in 2025.
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