The Turcot Yards in the City of Montreal is the type of property that could be considered a city builder’s dream. Conveniently located near a number of major transportation routes, minutes from downtown, near the new super hospital, it has it’s own wooded slope and a canal runs along side. The City of Montreal and the MTQ (Ministère des Transports du Québec) have been arguing over what to do with this space ever since its fate came into question with the reconstruction of the crumbling Turcot Exchange. What follows is a proposal to weave this space back into the city. If you are looking for the City of Montreal’s proposal it can be found here.
The vision for the site is a development focused on healthy living and delivering better access to health facilities utilizing the McGill University Health Center as a pole in thein the development of the Turcot Quartier Eco Santé. With the construction of sucah a large development there is ample potential to make the site a center for innovation and creativity within the city of Montreal. Our emphasis on eco-city design creates an opportunity to put Montreal back on the map as a center for innovation. Our Project Coincides with the growing movement in eco-city design and we envision an opportunity to create a healthy human environment that can develop in stages depending on the needs of the residents and users themselves.
Stemming from this vision for Turcot Quartier Eco Santé, our objectives - are to identify the site within Montreal while creating cohesion with the surrounding neighbourhoods. As the MUHC (McGill University Health Center) will cater to the entire island there is a great opportunity to conne ct both the local and regional through safe, effective and efficient transit corridors. It must also conform to the long term, sustainability – oriented vision adopted by the City of Montreal both in its Master Plan and Transport Plan, and to teh environmental vision the MTQ has set out in its own policy.
Turcot Quartier Eco Santé will not be developed like the traditional Montreal Suburb, rather it will demonstrate eco-city and sustainable development standards. The goal is to promote a development that effects how people travel in Montreal but also the way in which the urban fabric can be used. A vital goal is to incorporate various mixed use as well as mixed density and varying socio economic levels. Social and affordable housing will be combined with other types of housing, without allowing for differentiation based on design. The term Santé reflects our goal of creating a healthy human environment which promotes ecological ways of living and our goal to establish many specialized clinics in the new Quartier Santé neighbourhood in order to facilitate access to specialists and doctors working from the Mega Hospital and the local area.
In any large development there are both positive and negative aspects which may limit or enhance the development, however if we utilize all these in an equal manner just like a battery charge then the growth of the project can allow for a consistent distribution of pedestrian, transit and vehicular flows. This concept has the potential to charge the development by connecting our main concepts for green space and recreational space and thread them throughout the project in order to emphasize the potential healthy character of the site itself.
The average income in the areas surround the site are fairly typical for the Island of Montreal, excluding the highest distribution in Westmount. This allows us to stage development to attract a fair distribution of income groups while incorporating affordable and mixed housing and ideally attract those that would normally choose to reside in the suburbs. In and around the site there is a high distribution of both English and French schools, demonstrating a need to incorporate relatively few new educational facilities within the development. Access to educational facilities is however a key element in attracting families to Turcot Quartier Eco Santé and as such we envision the need for one French high school, one French elementary school and one English Elementary school. The service sheds are dependant on the proposed LRT (Light Rail Transit) station, and are measured to accomodate a 500m walking distance. The center of the sheds shall accommodate major services such as medium to large grocery stores, specialized commercial services, specialized health services, recreational services, and educational institutions.
Given a maximum estimated population for the given region of 22,000 people based on a 2.5km² area, we determined the mix of housing shown in the pie chart. Given the chosen five categories, we determined 15% social housing, 30% affordable housing, 35% middle income 10% middle high income, and 10% high income. These categories and percentages are based on socio-economic that we observed in the surrounding boroughs in Montreal, and are most logical in obtaining the largest possible population density. A key component of the socio-economic plan is to incorporate adequate affordabel and social housing as it is currently in-high demand within the city of Montreal. Typically it is difficult to merge these housing types cohesively into the urban fabric as there is a stigma attached to housing provided for lower income residents. Mixed income areas can be considered more appealing by offering employment opportunities at a local level. For instance a portion of the residential units located above big-box stores could be affordable housign for those who are employed within those stores. Maintenance of green roofs and community gardens could also be done by those living in social housing, in order to provide gainful employment opportunities and encourage a sense of community.
Before the arrival of European settlement in Montreal, the area now known as Turcot was formerly a marshy lake know as lac St-Pierre or Lac aux Loutres (Otter Lake), which flowed into the former St-Pierre River. In 1832 the river began to be covered by engineers and it was eventually incorporated into the cities expanding wastewater and sewer system, while the shallow marshy Lac St-Pierre was drained and filled in during the construction of the Lachine canal. In the late 1800′s, the grand trunk railway established a rail yard in the area naming it the Turcot Yards. In 1923, the grand trunk railway corporation ceased to exist, and the Canadian National Railway took control of the Turcot yards and the adjacent rail lines. In the 1960′s construction began on the Turcot interchange, which was inaugurated on April 25th, 1967, in time for Montreal’s World Expo. The interchange was meant to ease traffic and connect Autoroutes 10, 15, 20 and 720. CN used the Turcot yards site until it was abandoned in 2002, and since then there have been various attempts to make better use of the vast empty land that the Turcot has become.
As the site has been a rail yard for nearly a century, and more recently has been used as a site for emergency snow dumping, there is high presence of lead and other toxins in the soil. As such it is necessary to attempt to decontaminate the soil before initiating development. A potential solution for this could be the use of Humic acids; they offer a cost effective, organic and simple way of remediating degraded and contaminated soils. Humic acids are nontoxic and biodegrade slowly. They have low oxygen demand and have excellent fixation and adsorption properties for xenobiotics in soil (Sita France, 2006).
A key factor in attracting suburbanites to move to an urban setting and Turcot Quartier Eco Santé is not only the overall marketing of the project but also by way of providing more facilities that accommodate families. There must be an attempt to lure back residents who have fled the city in the past, but not at the expense of those who today call the district home (Gibson, 2002, p.262). If new housing opportunities are provided where in a private backyard that is commonly barely used is no longer considered more appealing than public green space consistent design elements could prove more aesthetically appealing. Private green spaces will also be provided both in the higher density areas through our regulations requiring active green roofs and our opening up of a number of the town home lots in the main residential zone for private purchase shall allow for this. The urge to attract suburbanites coincides with the socio-economic diversity, as it requires a sincere commitment to grapple with realities of class privilege in the contemporary urban landscape. As the Turcot site is practically a blank slate it proves easier to enhance this opportunity and not only attract the common demographic of the area, but also those from outside the area. As such the goal of attracting new residents must be coupled with an equally ambitious goal of expanding access to low-income and affordable housing. (Gibson, 2002, p.274). A component of this stems from attracting not only singles and couples, but families as well. Providing safe facilities to accommodate families in open space so that they feel comfortable using the ample public green space and parks.
Turcot Quartier Eco Santé will consist three main neighbourhoods, incorporating various areas with varying levels of activity depending on the location and time of the day, each generating different intensities of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The site will contain Light Rail Transit, pedestrian and bike zones that promote movement from the main station located on Rue Cavendish, to public parks, local playgrounds, and sporting areas. The variety of transportation options will benefit movement in multiple directions throughout the area, while the Lachine Canal, and the escarpment provide natural barriers and give the neighbourhood a feeling of containment. The Turcot Village square, located adjacent to the proposed marina, will contain the highest level of intensity as it will be the place where all types of traffic converge within the site. The intensity level will decrease when moving progressively further from this main node, however the intensity will again increase at the main public areas of parks and playgrounds, which will be located adjacent to our Light Rail Transit nodes.
The Turcot Yards transportation infrastructure is of both local and regional importance. At present a number of important regional transit links run through the site, the intersection of provincial highways 20, 15 and 720 are located in the north-east corner of the site. Highway twenty, known as Auto-route du Souvenir as well as highway 720 known as the Ville-Marie Expressway currently pass directly through the centre of the project site and all these attract approximately 150,000 vehicles daily. The Turcot Yards also has a long history of rail infrastructure, and the main CN freight line from the west, along with the main Via Rail commuter line also pass directly through the centre of the site parallel to the Auto-route du Souvenir.
The redevelopment of the Turcot Yards will respect the integral part of the regional transportation network that these pieces play in the greater Montreal region, and the province of Quebec as a whole. However contrary to other proposals for the highway the Turcot Yards development project recommends that highway capacity be capped at status quo preferring instead to focus expansion on the rail infrastructure and other mass transit links. The intersection of highways 15, 20 and 720 is an elevated structure that currently sits above a large area of land, while the elevated nature of the interchange permits other uses underneath the structure’s elevation has an impact on the maintenance and lifespan of the highway, the Turcot development project will attempt to reduce the impact of this interchange by reducing the size and amount of space that it takes up. The new interchange will be designed to have multiple levels for ease of transit for through traffic and interchange to the other routes.
In order to maximize the Turcot Yards site the regional transportation infrastructure will be relocated to near the base of the falaise St. Jacques following the current route of Rue Pullman, and then buried. The highway covers a total of 110, 440 sqm , half of this comes from the expansion of the escarpment (55, 220 sqm) which allows the steep incline to become useful. The other half, will become part of the boulevard. If the highway was left at grade when expanding the escarpment it would limit accessibility and a total of 110, 440 sqm would be lost, 55,220 sqm of which would not be developable since the road and buildings would be pushed further south. When trenching or creating tunnels for highways it is critical to provide adequate ventilation, as such we wish to use as much natural ventilation as possible and incorporate other systems if necessary. The basic design for the trenched part of the highway (Panel 4) will use fan and air movement to correspond to the flow of traffic and the number of fans used will be dependant on the specific tunnel length. The extension of Boulevard Cavendish will provide an essential connection between the South West,NDG and Lasalle.
A key component in the Ecological emphasis of Turcot Quartier Eco Santé is incorporating green building strategies to promote long lasting development potential. They provide an outstanding number of public benefits in areas such as air quality improvement, reduction in greenhouse gases, storm water quality and quantity improvements as well as long term economic benefits for building owners. Opportunities are not only available for vertical architecture, neighbourhood gardens, and composting centers but also through sustainable development technologies such as permeable paving, as well as storm water management and alternative energy generation.
Photo Sources: Jenna Dutton, 2010
GIS Maps : Mike Rocco
3D Images: Peter Mouhteros
Sketches: Daniel Barham
School Maps: Google Maps
Gibson, T. (2005) Selling city living: Urban branding campaign, class power and the civic good. In International Journal of Cultural Studies 2005; 8; 259.
Kives, B. (2010) Take one downtown, fill it with people. In Winnipeg Free Press Online Edition, February 8, 2010.
Sita France (2006) Global Skills for the Environment: Site and Soil Remediation. Retrieved from www.sita.fr on March 18, 2010.