Montreal’s beloved Parc Jean-Drapeau, held almost 55 years ago on the island of Expo 67 on the St. Lawrence River, is set to undergo a dramatic $ 1 billion transformation over the next eight years, with major work slated to begin next year.
After the master plan was approved by the City of Montreal earlier this year after a three-year planning process, the park’s managing authority, Societe du parc Jean-Drapeau, will begin a detailed draft to flesh out a new vision for the park and oversee dozens of them large and small projects that are spread across the two islands.
Jonathan Cha, the company’s main planning consultant, explained the 662 acre park with its numerous attractions such as the Montreal Casino, the Biosphere (housed in the Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome of Expo), the La Ronde amusement park and the Gilles Villeneuve Formula 1 racetrack and paddock, has long been neglected, with much of the $ 970 million earmarked for renovation being spent on structural renovation.
The planning process identified new guiding principles that were needed, taking into account the environmental traditions of the park and the opportunities to be at the forefront of future upgrades alongside heritage goals, diversity, innovation and inclusion. The park will be car-free.
“We assessed all of the different legacies that we identified, and the legacy of Expo 67 in particular, in the master plan and in the designs we created,” said Cha, who worked closely with a team of 20 designers who comprised several companies, including Nippaysage and Real Paul, representing architect on the master plan.
“We were trying to find a way to improve all of these areas … We focused on a few places where we really want to feel the sense of place. People will find this in the new park, but also a contemporary park. “
Funding is still being provided, but Cha said the city of Montreal has committed to about half the cost, with contributions from other levels of government being sought and strategic private funding being sought as well.
When the master plan was approved in April, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante stated: “The plan we have put forward will allow for a better balance between its natural and recreational properties thanks to developments that highlight its historical character while protecting this priceless natural environment. The master plan … is directly related to our goal of creating a network of parks that the world will envy. “
About 6,000 Montreal residents actively participated in the design process, and Cha said there was a great deal of interest in preserving the islands’ natural areas and improving access with new walkways and passive spaces.
The new direction represents a change in the pace of recent projects, including the construction of a 68,000-seat amphitheater and the construction of the new Formula 1 paddock, valued at $ 130 million. Eight million people visited the park in 2017.
“Now we want to create spaces where people can just walk and bike and do the more typical activities that we usually find in large parks,” said Cha. “Sustainable development, climate change, nature conservation, social implications, all these aspects are included in the master plan, this is the new reality.”
In the years 2022 to 2024, the redesign of the Plaines des Jeux park and the revitalization of the multi-storey Place des Nations Agora, the flag-decorated meeting place for Expo 67, will begin.
The master list of projects the owner plans to complete by 2030 includes 31 works ranging from the new $ 212 million Jacques Cartier multipurpose building and the $ 67 million upgrade to the Biodome and Helene de Champlain Pavilion to the US $ 92 million renovation range from the Kosmos walkway.
Other important projects are a 15 kilometer long waterfront; Restoration of the treetops on the Lac des Cygnes; Rehabilitation of waterways, including the canals on the Ile Notre-Dame, to make them accessible to water sports enthusiasts; and a new Ile-Ste-Helene ferry station.
A system of elevated walkways will also evoke images of the monorail system at Expo 67, offering a new way to experience the park, Cha said.
Cha admits that with more detailed construction and so many levels of work, plans could change.
“Things could change over time, but the goal is to stay more or less a decade average, especially for the main infrastructure,” he said. “The strategic framework action plan will also contain thousands of measures.”
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