Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bois Franc Development

My parents have decided to move back to Montreal from Suburban American Hell. I had taken the responsibility of real-estate agent in showing them several properties as 'ideas'. Of course it has been incredibly stressful for me, and i have now resigned. It's clear they have acquired a taste for suburban living that can hardly be changed. Even in light of global warming ( i mean it's even on the American news that my mother watches so religiously!), and the fact that her son has chosen the environmental challenge as a career path, they cannot see the reality.

I am already disturbed and upset just writing this bit about it, so i will move on to the point of this post: the Bois Franc Development in Ville Saint-Laurent, Montreal. If they are going to pick the suburban lifestyle, i figured they may as well pick the 'better' option. Bois-Franc has been developed on the principles of New Urbanism. In a nutshell, here is a short summary of (what i believe are) the most important principles of New Urbanism:

-The pedestrian is encouraged.
-The density is higher than traditional suburbs.
-High-quality of the architecture and design.
-A mixed-use centre is within walking distance.
-A mixture of housing types

I have visited Bois-Franc twice now, and i am actually pretty impressed with the development. The first most-striking thing upon arriving is that people are actually present. Like a scene from their promotional video, there are people, couples and families walking and biking around. This is something i have almost never seen in traditional suburbs. While i am impressed with the development, there are some things i am still concerned about:

1. The housing is quite expensive, and there are no affordable housing projects or low to medium-income rentals.
2. This is still a suburb, and most residents still depend on their cars to reach areas outside the development.
3. The central commercial square has a lot of parking around it, and are single-use buildings without any residential development on top (i.e. no vertical mixed use).

They had an observatory at the centre, where i took most of the pictures:

The centre has a lot of different services: movie rentals, café, restaurant, bakery, depanneur, etc.
The housing development around the centre
Notice the bus that runs through the development. Both times i was here, the bus had mostly young people riding them.
High density development
Many of the more prestigious developments are placed around these squares (notice the playground)
These townhouses are facing each other with a common landscaped walkway in the Garden City style.
Mixed housing types: retirement condos in the large building with lower rise duplex-style condos behind.
The higher density is achieved through small land parcels and narrow buildings with 4 floors of liveable space (finished basement to loft-attic)
Phase 3 of the project will start soon, which will cover all of the adjacent golf-course.


Jazzophile said...

very educational!

Reese said...

wow those look nice! I hope mom and dad buys something there!

Tully Kinch said...

I went to highschool near there while the thing was gestating, and always felt a slightly creepy film studio atmosphere emanating from the segragated compound that it is. Since then, one of my responsably maturing careerite freinds bought a place there with his equally sensible fiancee. In other words, very creepy!

Neath said...

It reminds me of the whole Saraguay battle in the 70's. Developers are like junkies, they have to keep developing. Montreal Island has 3% green space while the Quebec average is 8% and it is projects like this one that caused that discrepancy. In Green terms Montreal is nowhere near as pretty as it likes to think it is.

Jon said...

To respond to your comment Neath, i don't think the Bois Franc development would fall into that category. It's actually not a greenfield development, but a brownfield development... It is built on the land of the old Cartierville airport and industrial land. It's horrible that there is so many brownfields in montreal and yet they still allow developments to expand into forested land..

Jeannette said...

I think your three arguments against it really sum it up.

I also dont think people would ever be willing to finance a project like this with a more diverse range of home prices.

If it is anything like the one I saw in Texas, it does feel like a film studio. It's like Disney. And I dont think having a posh little bakery (or overpriced "indie" chain theatre, like in Dallas) in walking distance will solve any environmental issues. But it may help with the obesity epidemic!

Minus the carbs, of course.

Stony Curtis said...

Have you ever seen the development at the old Angus train Yards? I forget what it's called, or if it even has a name, but if you keep going East on Rachel (try using, you go over a railway and there it is--there's an SAQ and a huuuuge Loblaw's. In any case, that development is set up exactly like this one you photographed and described. And in the summer it is so nice for walking, biking, etc., but the infrastructure is not all there yet, but in the winter, b/c they cut down all the old trees (bastards!!!) and put in spindly baby ones, it is like the world's most glacial, most windy bowling alley, it is horrendous! the other slightly sad thing is that it has a disneyland feel, a feel like, "no normal person would live here".