November 10, 2015
A people‑rallying project
The recent announcement of the plan to build and develop a natural amphitheatre, a panoramic riverside walkway and a redesigned main concourse in the southwest sector of parc Jean‑Drapeau's Île Sainte‑Hélène, is outstanding news for the city of Montreal and everyone involved in the recreation‑tourism community. It is a people‑rallying project that makes me exceedingly proud and further reinforces my decision to accept the position of Board Chair of the Société du parc Jean‑Drapeau. This pride is also shared by every member of the new Board of Directors.
When I arrived as the head of the Board, I made the firm commitment to establish a veritable channel of communication between the Société du parc Jean‑Drapeau (SPJD) and the community at large. Six months later, with enthusiasm and fuelled by a desire for transparency, I am pleased to provide you with a report on achievements thus far and to inform you about the many issues relating to the building and development project.
The arrival of the new Board of Directors is the by‑product of the report issued by the City of Montreal's Inspector General which revealed irregularities in the awarding of contracts relating to the Parc's building and development project. As a result, we needed to react swiftly to rectify the situation and move forward. We proceeded with just one objective in mind: put the project back on the rails.
Specific measures were implemented:
- The hiring of a new Director General
- The cancelling of all contracts noted by the Inspector General
- The hiring of new project managers
- The establishing of an agreement with the City of Montreal's procurement department to provide support to Parc Jean‑Drapeau in the call for tenders process
- The revising of certain aspects of the building and development project and the confirmation of the extent and the construction budget ($70.4 million in total)
- The developing of a new deadline schedule for completing the project which now foresees the work ending in 2018.
All of us would have truly liked to have had a completion date that coincided with the festivities surrounding Montreal's 375th anniversary celebrations in 2017. Unfortunately, under the circumstances, it was impossible to finish a project of such magnitude within the required time frame. Consequently, we decided to take a more realistic approach which, at the same time, will minimize the impact on the activities of our main partners. Not only have we been able to re‑launch a major project, in a timely manner, we also positioned Parc Jean‑Drapeau as a top‑notch recreation‑tourism lever for the city of Montreal.
The amphitheatre project is in keeping with the desire to provide Montreal with an infrastructure that will be able to accommodate major international events in an outdoor setting, without having to incur the many current constraints relating to the set‑up and dismantling of the sites. The new amphitheatre, which is on the cutting edge of technology, will enhance the current programming, as well as the royalties and share costs that are asked of event promoters.
Currently, the site of the future amphitheatre plays host to many types of events, including the Osheaga Festival which on its own generates $30 million in economic benefits for the city of Montreal. Once construction is completed, the amphitheatre will be made available to every event promoter, with no applicable exclusivity clause.
As a result, claims that this building and development project will only serve the interests of private promoters are totally unfounded. This magnificent legacy will become a prime destination for Montrealers and tourists from outside the region. Meanwhile, showcasing the two icons represented by the Biosphere and Calder's Homme sculpture, combined with a panoramic riverside walkway, will ensure a steady flow of people at all times.
Incidentally, a total of $2 million set aside in this same budget envelope, has been specifically allocated to enable experts to come up with mitigation measures to reduce the sound impact.
Place des Nations
The current project regarding Place des Nations calls for work to clean up and secure the site in order to make it accessible; the site has been closed since 2010. But this decision does not mean restoration work has been abandoned. Actually, the decision will allow us to put more thought into the eventual vocation of this heritage site.
A project that respects the environment
We are well aware of the issues and we can assure you that all the work will be done with the required permits and in compliance with the environment. The project entails work on the vegetation cover, starting with the removal of invasive species and trees which are reaching the end of their lives. Some trees will obviously be cut down to allow the work to be conducted, but they will be replaced by new species that are adapted to the climate and the environment. The SPJD also needs to review the maintenance plan so that invasive species don't obstruct the views, as they do now. Once the project has been completed, there will be the same amount of vegetal canopy space. The existing lagoons, which were artificially made in 1993, will be taken out and will give way to other wetlands. We are currently working with the Environment Ministry on alternative solutions.
Defining a vision
The building and development project, for which work will get underway in October, 2016, only affects 15% of the total area of 268 hectares that encompass Parc Jean‑Drapeau. It should be noted this urban park also comprises a Beach, Aquatic Complex, Rowing Basin, Circuit Gilles‑Villeneuve, two museums, a Casino, La Ronde amusement park, public art works, 64 assorted buildings, rental halls, gardens, wooded areas and a diversified program with close to 70 events per year.
Beyond the Île Sainte‑Hélène building and development project, deliberations on the future vocation of all of the Parc's built and natural heritage are already underway and will be continuing over the coming months. What do we want for the Parc? How can we improve the co‑existence of the various users? What types of events should we be accommodating? Where does the heritage aspect fit in? These and other questions will be answered as we meet with all the stakeholders during consultations conducted in conjunction with revisions to the Parc's Master Plan, the latest version of which dates back to 1993.
Montreal has the opportunity to have an exceptional site, with enormous potential. The building and development project and the showcasing of Parc Jean‑Drapeau is a great example of this potential, and we firmly believe in the success of this initiative. In closing, I reiterate my pledge to keep citizens informed about all of the projects being envisioned at the Parc, and most of all, to listen to what people have to say.