When I first interviewed Jeroen Henrich, VP of Development at Cadillac Fairview, about the major renovations being done at the Fairview Mall last February, he mentioned another development that was being planned – a large residential ‘mixed-use community’ project to be located on the other side of Fairview Avenue. “It will transform 20 hectares of land into office space, a hotel and Main Street style shops alongside rental apartments and condos”, he said at the time and it sounded like just another big residential development – with a few added perks. However, Henrich is now describing it as a 20 hectare, ‘massive high-rise housing, office towers and a boutique hotel’ project. In fact, they are saying it will become a ‘new downtown in the heart of the West Island. “It is more than just another condo complex and it is aimed at attracting new families, new jobs and millions of more shoppers each year,” he said.
The investment is big, with the new development project expected to cost at least $1 billion – compared to the renovations at the mall (including the new dining hall and Simons) expected to cost close to $100 million. However, the perks with new project have grown in scope. The vision is to create a community ‘where people can live, work, shop and play’. By incorporating public spaces and creating a pleasant pedestrian experience, the development will be designed to encourage people to walk – rather than drive between stores, hotels, offices and their homes. The new REM station will be located next to the HWY 40 service road, right in the middle of the new development. It will be planned around the station, with easy pedestrian access from the trains to the Fairview mall and new public spaces around the complex – and a connection to the downtown area and Trudeau airport.
Reaction to the news of the development was mixed. Some liked the idea of not having to head into the city core to do some of their shopping, saving time and gas money. Others were concerned that an already struggling downtown Montreal would suffer even further with less people going there. Many West Island residents expressed concern the project would actually add more noise, traffic and pollution to the area and that the REM will not be used anywhere near as much as anticipated. Pointe-Claire, where the project will have the largest impact, is an area known for its quaint village feel, green spaces and a ‘great place to live’. It has already seen acres of precious green space taken over by large residential complexes in the past couple of years, despite much opposition from residents – and the idea of a ‘new Downtown in the West Island’ at their doorstep is just adding to their concerns. Nonetheless, the new development project is expected to break ground sometime in 2021 and will be built in phases over several years until it is complete. What is your opinion? Will the West Island benefit from a ‘Downtown’ area? What are the positive aspects to the project that you would like to share with our readers?