U de M's future neighbours upset over second campus

Residents of bordering area say they were left out of public consultations

Community groups in the Montreal neighbourhood of Parc-Extension are upset after the City of Montreal approved zoning changes which will allow construction of a new Université de Montréal campus to go ahead.

The university, the second largest in Canada, says it needs to expand. But with a large cemetery on one side and a residential neighbourhood along the others, the school says there’s no more room on or around its campus.

In 2006, the university purchased an old rail yard in the borough of Outremont, where it intends to build a second campus. The city’s office of public consultations held several sessions and the borough has also held its own information sessions.

But residents in the neighbouring area of Parc-Extension say that because the majority of public consultations were held in Outremont, they haven’t been heard

They’re concerned because the proposed site runs along the border between Outremont and the borough of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension. So, even though parts of the campus will literally be across the street from Parc-Extension, the residents of Outremont have had more say.

The big problem is that Outremont and Parc-Extension are very different neighbourhoods and the residents have very different concerns about the project. While Outremont is relatively wealthy, Parc-Extension has a high population of immigrants and lower rents.

The main concern in Outremont is that the development will increase traffic, though much of the neighbourhood seems rather apathetic about the project.

In Parc-Extension, the concerns are a little more serious. Some residents are worried that an influx of students will push rents up and drive them out. They’re also worried that local businesses won’t be able to compete with businesses that move into the area to serve students.

The project has the support of Montreal’s Mayor, Gérald Tremblay, whose Union Montreal party has a majority on City Council. So, as long as U de M is able to secure funding for the development, it’s highly unlikely that the city will get in the way.

The next step for the city is the creation of an urban development plan for the campus and surrounding area, which Tremblay has said will include social housing. The creation and approval of that plan will involve further public consultations.