Derek Martin is the CEO of International Federation for Housing and Planning
Montreal: All the right ingredients for successful planning
Derek Martin - Montreal is an interesting city for all professionals involved in urban planning. You notice the double cultural cross-roads, between North American and European, between Latin and Anglo-Saxon. It makes for a pragmatic, flexible and realistic approach to planning, cutting out both the ‘market’ and ‘control’ extremities that have adversely effected planning culture in both the US and Europe.
Montreal has pulled itself up from quite a major crisis some 20 years ago with just this attitude, although it already had a lot of good things going for it structurally. ‘Downtown’ is a walkable area of human scale, assisted in winter by its unique maze of underground linkages and facilities. Some great neighbourhoods are within 5-10 minutes by metro or car, 15 minutes cycle ride and even walkable. Low-rise, rich in trees, unique with their metal outside staircases. these areas are alive with a mix of older urban residents and a new generation of natives and migrants. This proximity to the centre of such (spontaneously) (re)vital(ised) and pleasant neighbourhoods ensures an important level of urban residence and enables the city centre to come alive with the correct policies. These policies have included considerable investment in public spaces, markets, street life, small shops (rather than characterless malls), art and culture. The city has meaningfully retained its 350 year old urban heritage through the revitalisation of the old port and old canal areas, putting down 44 kms of cycle lanes, building over and submerging the freeway that cut ‘downtown’ in two, attention to a good mix of new architecture with old etc. etc.
Four major universities (and in all honesty quite a migration of young people from the rural areas of Québec) ensure a vital proportion of young people in the city. This is reflected in major new industries that have developed in these last 20 years; film graphics and the design industries are the major examples. This is why, for Montréal’s 375th, Canada’s 150th and EXPO’s 50th anniversary in 2017, Montréal is going to invest in a major design event lasting more than 2 weeks. As well as fashion, graphics and industrial design, Montreal will also include urban design, building on its considerable achievements in urban planning over the past 20 years. IFHP and the Ordre des Urbanistes du Québec will be partners for this particular part of the 2017 manifestation.