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1. Where We Are Today

Park Ave Corridor Development Strategy

This first section, “Where We Are Today,” introduces and  describes a series of important questions: What is the history of the communities surrounding Avenue du Parc, and the history of the Avenue du Parc tramway? How would be community react if it were reinstalled? How can these neighborhoods be described today, socioeconomically, as well as physically? The purpose of this section is to introduce the central corridor, and to provide some background on the role and importance of the study of the implementation of a tram along the avenue.

In this section you will find:
Section 1.1 – “History and Background” which describes the history of the surrounding neighborhoods and communities, provides a background of the tramway along Avenue du Parc, as well as provides a survey of residents’ reactions to the idea of implementing a new tram.

Section 1.2 – “Neighborhood Analysis” provides a detailed analysis of the corridor as a whole. For formatting purposes, the corridor was divided into three sections for analysis of key destinations, neighborhood characteristics, commercial activity, as well as dominant modes of transportation.

Section 1.3 – “Physical Analysis” is a broad look at the opportunities and constraints along the corridor; transportation flow, important streets, physical and psychological barriers, and zoning.

1.1 History and Background

Context Map

Historical Context

Avenue du Parc was constructed late 19th century. The street was named in 1883 in honour of Parc Mont Royal. Once an elegant residential avenue, Avenue du Parc is now a busy commercial street, Avenue du Parc  became home to Montreal’s Greek community, its restaurants and pastry shops, in the 1950s. Alongside du Parc Avenue lies Jeanne-Mance Park, named in honour of the founder of Montréal’s first hospital. The park, originally a racetrack until 1820, has always been a great location for different leisure, sporting and cultural activities. Just across from Jeanne-Mance Park, Mount-Royal Park is a major regional destination. (Krashinsky, 2009)

The Tram system on the island of Montreal ran from September 21,st 1892 until August 30, 1959. First named the Montreal Street Railway Company, and called the Montreal Transportation Commission at the end of streetcar service. Avenue du Parc was a major artery in the street car system. (Grumley, 1992)

Avenue du Parc was once the centre of the Jewish immigrant community, who rode the streetcars that connected the residential area with downtown. Parc has evolved into one of the city’s major arteries. Nowadays, the Greek community — among others — has flourished here, when Greece won the 2004 Euro Cup traffic was blocked by a sea of blue and white. The Greek community demonstrated its influence in recent civic action. The streetcars have been replaced by the famed route 80 bus, which runs to the end of Parc at Jean Talon. Beyond these streets is, Parc Extension; one of the cities most diverse neighbourhoods with 80% of residents first language neither English nor French. (Krashinsky, 2009)

Project Context

The Montreal Transportation Plan: Reinvent Montreal, lays out the city’s priorities for public transit development in Montreal. The overall objective of the plan is to meet the mobility needs of greater Montreal, to make the city a great place to live and to foster economic development.(Montreal, 2007) The plan forecasts increases in population and jobs between 2007 and 2021 and suggests a corresponding increase in commutes within the island. The transportation plan lays out a number of additions and improvements that should to be made to the road network, subway network, and the introduction of tramways or a light rail transit (LRT) system to the city. The transportation plan proposes concrete measures to reach a balance between the commuting needs of the population and the quality of environment. The Avenue du Parc LRT line has been identified as priority within this plan.

Modern LRT systems have a number of specific characteristics; the majority of them travel on right of ways that are reserved for them at all times and this ensures quick, reliable, and precise travel times. This kind of system is most competitive with private vehicle transportation.  Modern light rail trains service stations that have distinctive shelters, elevated platforms, and dynamic displays for travel information and departure times. Modern LRT cars are often spacious and stylish and have more than one unit. They also often have low floors which makes them easily accessible both when in the station and for riders with mobility issues. LRT systems also have preferred status at street intersections and have the right of way in most situations. Most LRT systems use propulsion systems with a low environmental impact. The modern LRT is a very different system from the tram system that used to run in Montreal up until 1959. The modern LRT is more reliable, user friendly, comfortable, and can also accommodate a much larger capacity than the tram systems of years past. The city aims to use systems currently in operation in a number of Nordic cities  due to their compatibility with the climate of Montreal. (Gospodini, 2005)

Sense of Community

The sense of community along this corridor is quite strong.  Whether it be in the McGill Ghetto, or in the Mile-End neighbourhood, community life seems to be thriving.

In the southern part of the corridor, the student vibe is omnipresent.   Although some families and McGill University professors and staff also live in this area, it is the young students that provide the community feeling here.  Impromptu soccer games between neighbors and informal study session at the local café are common occurrences and give the neighborhood its distinctly university feel.

In the northern portion of the corridor, the Mile-End area, the Greek community is strongly represented.  With several businesses catering to the community and a few community organizations (such as the Greek Worker’s Union), walking along Avenue du Parc gives the passerby the impression that a strong community sentiment exists in this area.  This is the heart of the Hellenic community of Montreal.

The commerce owners along Avenue du Parc provide the community with their anchor point.  It is therefore imperative that any development take into account the possible inconveniences during the construction phase to the commercial areas.  The 14 month construction period on Boulevard St-Laurent caused profits to drop up to 80% for some businesses, and forced other to completely close their doors.  This recent occurrence just a stone’s throw away from Avenue du Parc is still fresh in the community’s mind.

The strong community sentiment along the corridor is exemplified by the mobilization around the plans to rename Avenue du Parc to Avenue Robert Bourassa.  The residents and commerce owners gathered over 42,000 signatures on a petition against the name change.  Under the pressure of the community, municipal government chose to keep the Avenue du Parc name.

Sense of Place

The corridor is alive with different places providing residents and visitors with a lasting impression.  From vibrant street life with outdoor cafés and small retail shops to the beautiful plazas and public spaces around Place des Arts, there are many places for public engagement.  A few key places have been observed as central to the community life along the corridor.

In the McGill ghetto, the Second Cup at the corner of Prince-Arthur is always bustling with students studying, meeting and relaxing.  This particular place gives the visitor a clear sense of the student community base of the neighbourhood.  This location is at a strategic point along the corridor, on a widely travelled pedestrian throughway for residents.

The Mont-Royal and Jeanne-Mance parks are beautiful parks that are dear to both residents and visitors.  These parks are places of relaxation and are highly valued by the residents nearby.  They provide the opportunity for civic engagement (impromptu volleyball games, medieval fighting matches, Sunday Tam-Tams, …) but also for personal reflection.  They are key assets that contribute to the sense of place of the corridor.

The Mile-End neighbourhood is known for its Greek restaurants and its varied retail shops.  Visitors get the distinct impression that they are entering a well defined neighbourhood with vibrant street life.  The many outdoor cafés, large sidewalks and varied shops ensure a sense of place to all.  Recently, the City of Montreal has made efforts to brand this section of Avenue du Parc as a Greek neighbourhood.

What the Community Says

“It’s hard to get to through the park with a young child; I would definitely use the tram if it stopped in the middle!” – Suzanne, 38, Mother of two

“Sure, I’d use it to get to the rink!” – Blair, 23, Student

“A tram along the route of the 80 [bus]? I would definitely use is for a faster commute!” – Richard, 21, Student

“I’m concerned about business; taking away a parking lane would limit the customers who usually stop and park in front.” – Stéphane, 38, Business owner

“It seems like a good idea for the environment! I would definitely use it instead of the 80 [bus].”– Emily, 19, Student

“I like the idea of a tram! Less lanes of traffic is better!” – Dan-Tam, 42, Resident of the area

1.2 Neighbourhood Analysis

Ave Van Horne – Ave Mont-Royal

The first section covered in the analysis consists of the first third of the area, which is delineated by Avenue St-Viateur  to the north, and Avenue Mont-Royal to the south.

Key destinations-

Through observation, it is evident that the key destination in this section is home, as the dominant land-use is residential. While this area is considered part of the Le Plateau and Outremont boroughs within the City of Montreal, residents refer to it more often as ‘Mile-End’.

Neighborhood Characteristics-

This first section along, and surrounding, Avenue du Parc can be described as predominantly residential with moderate population density at 157 persons/hector (census 2006). In 2001, there were over 8 500 residents, including more than 1 800 families (census 2001). Typically, these are townhouses, with almost 500 row houses in this area, and apartment buildings, 700 of which located in buildings that are higher than five stories (census 2006) . Also, the area has numerous ethnic enclaves, from Greek communities to Jewish ones.

Commercial Activity-

In this section, commercial activity is focused along Avenue du Parc as well as many important cross streets, which include Avenues St-Viateur and Mont-Royal. The majority of these businesses are locally oriented; grocery stores and cafes mainly serve residents of the area. In addition, St-Laurent Boulevard, which is located east of Avenue du Parc is the home of a higher level of commercial activity. However, business on this boulevard, as well as on the east-west oriented Avenue Laurier, not only attracts customers of the neighborhood, but also visitors on the regional scale.

Dominant Transportation-

Last, in terms of the dominant mode of transportation used by residents in this area, residents dominantly travel to their daily destination using public transportation; 38% of residents ride public transit. The public transit along the corridor can be represented by the 80 bus line which can be described with high frequency but even higher demand.  Additionally, 31% use their private vehicle to commute to work. Finally, those that commute to their main daily destination by active transportation, including pedestrians and cyclists, represent 24% of the residents in the area (Census 2006). During rush hour, Avenue du Parc is highly congested with private vehicles, making it difficult for buses to weave in and out of traffic, and for pedestrian to cross the street.

Ave Mont-Royal – Ave des Pins

This second section of the analysis can be delineated by Mont-Royal Avenue to the north, and Avenue des Pins to the south.

Key destinations-

In this section, the key destination is Parc Mont-Royal, which is a destination not only to local residents, but also on the regional scale. However, Parc Jeanne-Mance is also a main destination. Additionally, even though the dominant land-use for this area is recreational (figure 1), a large institution is located south of Parc Jeanne-Mance: Hotel Dieu hospital located south of Parc Jeanne-Mance. Finally, as there are few homes located on the east side of this section, main destination for residents is home.

Neighborhood Characteristics-

This first section along Avenue du Parc and in the surrounding area, can be described as predominantly recreational with some housing on the east side. Those that reside in this area live in higher density dwelling occupied by families; residents can be described similarly to those that reside in the previous section. They live in a combination of apartment units in buildings over five stories, as well as row houses, duplexes and semi-detached housing in buildings less than five stories.

Commercial Activity-

Even though the majority of this area is zoned recreational due to the large presence of parks, quite a few businesses can be observed along Avenue St-Urbain, Avenue Mont-Royal, as well as St-Laurent Boulevard. While, the businesses along the first two avenues predominantly serve local residents, those on St-Laurent attracted customers from all over the region with places to shop as well as a high number of bars and nightclubs.

Dominant Transportation-

Last, in terms of the dominant mode of transportation used by residents in this area, residents primarily travel to their daily destinations using public transit, however many use active transportation instead. Traffic functions in this area are similar to the previous section in that Avenue du Parc carries a high volume of private vehicles coming from all over the island in direction to the central business district (CBD). The vehicles, which travel at high speeds, create a challenge for pedestrians crossing the park. A high volume of pedestrians cut through the park to Avenue Duluth, in direction to the many attractions on Boulevard St-Laurent.

Ave des Pins – Blvd Renée-Levesque

The third section covered in the analysis consists of the last third of the corridor along Rue de Bleury, which can be delineated by Avenue des Pins to the north, and Boulevard St-Laurent to the south.

Key destinations-

In this section, there are four main destinations. The first is home; there are many residents in the upper part of this section. This neighborhood is colloquially known as the ‘McGill Ghetto’ and serves primarily students of the university. The second, are places to learn; l’Universite de Quebec a Montreal (UQAM), as well as McGill University are located on either side of this corridor. The third destination is work; there are numerous employment opportunities south of Boulevard Sherbrooke Ouest in the entrance to the central business district of Montreal. The last destination, is the Quartier des Spectacles (QDS), which attracts people from all over the region.

Neighborhood Characteristics-

The section along Avenue du Parc and in the surrounding blocks, can be described as diverse; there is no dominant land use. It is simultaneously a highly residential, commercial, institutional, and cultural area. The residents that live in the neighborhood north of Rue Sherbrooke, are predominantly students and young professionals living in high density dwellings, at 242 persons/hector. Dwelling can be describes as apartment units and condos. South of this boulevard, there is a much lower population density, 16 persons/hector, however those who do live there are predominantly young professionals + 5 stories.

Commercial Activity-

Similarly, as the area has many key destinations, the commercial activity also varies significantly. In the ‘McGill Ghetto’, commercial activity is focused on Avenue Du Parc and mainly serve residents of the neighborhood. On the other hand, in the lower part, commercial activity is much higher, as it acts as an entrance to the CBD of Montreal. Offices and businesses located along Rue Bleury, Boulevard Maisonneuve as well as along Boulevard Renee-Levesque attracts employees from all over the region. Avenue St-Catherine, which also attract regional users, offers a significant amount of shopping on the first floors, and offices are present above.

Dominant Transportation-

Last, in terms of the dominant mode of transportation used by residents in this area, residents are typically students going to McGill or UQAM, as well as young professionals working in the CBD. They dominantly travel to their daily destinations using active transportation, representing 62% of residents. However, regional traffic must be mentioned here, as most destinations are regional ones. There is a  high volume of vehicles in these area, coming from all over the Montreal Metropolitan Community. Additionally, many regional users are brought to the area using public transportation. There are a number of bus lines, as well as the Place des Arts Metro Station, which is located on the corner of Avenue Bleury and Avenue Maisonneuve.

1.3 Physical Analysis

Important Streets

Important streets were determined by various levels of importance. First, streets that are important to pedestrians include Avenue Duluth, Rue Prince-Arthur, as well as Rue Duluth. Second, streets that are important for transit functions, include Rue St-Viateur, Boulevard St-Joseph, Avenue des Pins, and Rue Sherbrooke. Last, streets that are important commercial corridors include St-Laurent Boulevard, Avenue Laurier, Boulevard Maisonneuve, and Rue St-Catherine. It must be mentioned that many of the above streets serve multiple functions.

Transportation Flow

Along the corridor, the flow of transportation can be divided into three types: pedestrian, public transit, and private vehicles. Pedestrian flow is concentrated along the important streets, avenues and boulevards, as previously mentioned. Additionally, pedestrians can be notices taking short cuts through the park. In terms of public transit, a high volume of congestion can be noticed is on the 80 bus route along Avenue du Parc, which has a high frequency as well as a high demand. Additionally, the buses on Rue Sherbrooke and Rue St-Catherine are busy as well. Last, in terms of private vehicle traffic, most of the congestion along the northern section passes through the area, coming from all over the region is direction to the CBD as well as many other regional destinations. Consequently, the speed of the traffic is quite high.

Transit Nodes

Transit intersections are important to highlight along the avenue as they represent important interchanges between buses as well as buses and the metro system. Important bus nodes along Avenue du Parc include those at Avenue St-Viateur, Boulevard St-Joseph, Avenue Mont-Royal, Avenue des Pins, Rue Sherbrooke, and Boulevard Renée-Levesque. The transit node on the corner of Rue de Bleury and Boulevard de Maisonneuve is an important interchange between buses and Place-des-Arts metro station.

Barriers

There are two main barrier along this corridor. The first, located between the two parks, Mont-Royal Park and Jeanne-Mance Park can be described as a psychological barrier, as it acts like a void to vehicles passing though, as well as to those on foot trying to cross the park. The second, a more physical barrier, is a steep hill along Avenue Sherbrooke, limiting pedestrians from walking north along Avenue du Parc.

Infill Potential

Empty lots can important to identify as they indicate infill potential. While there are not many empty lots along the corridor, there are a few clusters located in the Mile-End portion, as well as at the entrance to the central business district of Montreal.

Maximum Building Heights

Similarly, maximum building heights are important to identify as they indicate the the maximum height at which construction is allowed. While the majority of the corridor has a maximum height allocation of four to five stories, the west side of the northern section of Avenue du Parc is mostly zoned at three stories high. Additionally, South of Sherbrooke, the zoning rapidly changes to a maximum building height above six stories.

Sidewalks

Along Avenue du Parc, the width and position of the park changes often. First, north of Mont-Royal, the sidewalks are quite wide, allowing pedestrians to easily move around. In addition, there is a parking lane on either side of the avenue, creating a security barrier between those on foot and the traffic. In the Park however, this security barrier is replaced by grass to separate pedestrians from the high speed traffic. Third, south of Avenue des Pins, the sidewalks are much more narrow, and there are breaks in parking lanes; this makes it much more difficult for pedestrians to flow, and, where there is no parking, they are less protected.

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Discussion

2 Responses to “1. Where We Are Today”

  1. When writinfg in English about my beloved Park Avenue. Spell it in it’s original form “PARK AVENUE”

    Origin of Park Avenue

    Park Avenue takes its name because it runs along part of the Mount Royal Park, between Pine Avenue and Mount Royal Avenue . The name of Park Avenue was assigned in 1883 and it was not until 1961 that it was officially allowed to translate that name into avenue du Parc. This toponym remains one of the few in Montreal, where both the specific French and specific English remain in use.

    Posted by Nikolaos Karabineris | 08/02/2012, 11:02 pm

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