Archive for the ‘Urban planning’ Category

What do giant puppet jellyfish, green roofs, old computers, and a tax company have in common?

All were part of projects honoured at a Montreal environment and sustainable development awards gala held last week. Organized by CRE-Montréal in collaboration with the City of Montreal, the annual event aims to highlight innovative and inspiring projects being carried out by partners of Montreal’s Sustainable Development Plan.

While I didn’t attend the gala, the projects are all worth mentioning. In fact, one of the award winners and one of the nominees have already been featured on this blog.

 2012 winners

  • Business and industry category: KPMG, a company that provides audit, tax, and advisory services, won for its initiatives encouraging employees to become active in their community. The company makes social and environmental involvement part of its employees’ annual performance evaluation. It also organizes an annual volunteer day: in 2011, 91% of its employees participated in activities such as planting trees, cleaning up shorelines, and controlling invasive species in Angrignon park.
  • Public bodies and institutions: The Borough of Rosement–La Petite-Patrie won for bylaw changes aiming to reduce urban heat islands. Property developers are now obligated to devote at least 20% of the area to green space. In cases where this is difficult, a green roof (roof covered by vegetation) can be installed. In its first year, the bylaw saw the installation of 300 new green and white roofs (roof covered by reflective materials), and the greening of more than 21,000 km2 — the equivalent of four football fields.
  • Non-profit organizations, associations and groups: In 2011 Insertech Angus started its DÉDUIRre service for businesses, collecting and refurbishing old IT equipment, and then putting it to (re)use in the community. The organization also plays a social role by training and employing young people in difficulty, helping them integrate into the job market. (See enviromontreal post: A social and environmental solution for IT equipment)
  • Finally, the “Coup de cœur” award given out by Culture Montréal went to the Coopérative Les ViVaces for its show “La Conférence,” presented during Earth Day weekend at the Biodome. Using puppets made from recycled materials, it told the story of an explorer who discovers the 7th continent, a mass of garbage in the ocean which may be as large as Europe (a true phenomenon, also known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”).

You can view short videos about each of these projects on the gala’s website (in French). Even if your French is poor, watch the video on Coopérative Les ViVaces to see the giant jellyfish they made using an old umbrella frame and transparent plastic.

Also nominated

The following organizations were also nominated for their work.

  • Business and industry: Communauto, for its new fleet of electric cars; Brasserie Labatt, for its recovery of cooling water used in the pasteurization process.
  • Public bodies and institutions: Borough of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension, for the recycling of excavation materials; City of Montreal’s Direction des immeubles, for its sustainable ice-skating rinks.
  • Non-profit organizations, associations and groups: Accès Fleuve / ZIP Ville-Marie, for its Route bleue du Grand Montréal, a way to discover the Montreal area by canoe or kayak; and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for its “Ruelle du réemploi”.


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UPDATE (Dec. 2, 2011):  Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay has announced that a public consultation on urban agriculture will be held this spring. The city clerk has confirmed that the petition meets the criteria for the right of initiative and contains 29,068 valid signatures.

They did it. On November 15, 2011, the Work Group on Urban Agriculture (GTUA) announced that it had collected 25,082 signatures on a petition calling for public hearings on urban agriculture. This is well beyond the 15,000 signatures required to meet the City of Montreal’s criteria for launching a public consultation by right of initiative.

In effect since January 1, 2010, the right of initiative allows citizens to initiate a public consultation on any matter that concerns the City or their borough. In the case of a City matter, the petition must be signed (on paper) by at least 15,000 people, ages 15 and over living on the territory of the city of Montreal, within a three-month period. The GTUA is the first group to successfully make use of  this new tool.

The GTUA hopes the City will mandate the Office de consultation publique de Montréal to begin public hearings soon. This would allow citizens and experts to express their points of view, and would help establish a profile of the state of urban agriculture in Montreal, the group explained in its Nov. 15 press release.

Public hearings could highlight the economic, social and environmental benefits of urban agriculture. (Photo: Eve Krakow)

“The reflection process will foster the emergence of a concerted vision as to the place that urban agriculture should have in the Montreal of tomorrow,” the group stated (in French). “It will allow for recommendations for reaffirming the necessity of gardening in the city, on the social, economic and environmental levels.”

On Dec. 2, 2o11, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay announced that a public consultation on urban agriculture will be held this spring. The final count on the petition was 29,068 valid signatures.

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Oh, how I dream of a city where the car is not king. A city designed first and foremost with the pedestrian in mind. And not just the single, able-bodied pedestrian who can dash across the street before the walk light starts to flash, but also those pushing strollers or pulling toddlers or pushing walkers, over curbs, under overpasses, across intersections, onto public transit. A city where you can ride along a bicycle path without it suddenly ending, leaving you on your own to cross an overpass and three lanes of traffic.

The people at the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre (MUEC) have been doing more than dreaming: they’ve been taking action, with a project called “Green, Active and Healthy Neighbourhoods.” Begun in 2009, the project aims to redesign streets and public spaces to prioritize walking, cycling, and other modes of active transportation — one neighbourhood at a time.

To this end, the MUEC has spearheaded pilot projects in four neighbourhoods: Park Extension, Mercier East, Plateau East and Southeastern NDG. In each case, the MUEC team has adopted a participatory approach involving citizens, local organizations and elected officials, who work with professionals in urban planning, urban design, architecture and other relevant fields to identify the problems in their neighbourhood and come up with concrete solutions. It’s a year-long process that culminates in the development of an action plan.

Proposal for Laurier Avenue in front of De Lorimier Park. (Illustration by David Chedore for the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre)

The MUEC did not invent the idea of green neighbourhoods. In fact, their project builds on the City of Montreal’s 2008 Transportation Plan “The Transportation Plan recommends the creation of new green neighbourhoods. This strategy would promote the designation of perimeters with rules and amenities aimed at calming traffic, increasing security and restoring the quality of life appropriate to the residents of these neighbourhoods.” (Development Program No. 16)

“We wanted to demonstrate the feasibility of planning green neighbourhoods with citizens, experts and local organizations,” explained Luc Rabouin, executive director of the MUEC. “We wanted to encourage the political will, and to bring about a change in practices among professionals.”

Recommendations for Plateau East

The plan for Plateau East was launched yesterday. It contains over 50 recommended actions, each explained in detail. Marie-Hélène Armand, urban planning advisor at the MUEC, explained some of the proposed interventions for specific intersections or streets.

Some of the simpler recommendations involve adding traffic lights, stop signs and crosswalks to improve pedestrian safety; adding planters and installing benches. Other measures include widening sidewalks (and narrowing streets), adding planting strips, or building sidewalk bump-outs to reduce traffic speed, increase drivers’ visibility, and shorten the crossing distance. A number of recommendations deal with improving the bike path network and improving cyclist safety. More complex measures involve redesigning (and rebuilding) problematic intersections or overpasses, or changing the direction of traffic on some streets.

Entrance to Masson Street viaduct as it is now. (Illustration by David Chedore for the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre)

Proposed changes for Masson Street viaduct. (Illustration by David Chedore for the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre)

Josée Duplessis, city counsellor for the De Lorimier district of the Plateau Mont-Royal borough, said the city — which has been an active partner throughout the process — has already agreed to implement some of the smaller recommendations, and will study the feasibility of others. To this end, she announced the creation of a follow-up committee, which will include representatives and professionals from the various groups and partners involved.

So what happened in Park Ex and Mercier East?

Rabouin notes that real change requires four ingredients: political will, mobilization of local organizations and associations (business, health, etc.), citizens who assert their demands, and professionals such as urban planners who are open to doing things differently. He believes the Plateau East has a good measure of all four ingredients.

In Park Extension and Mercier East, where plans were launched last spring, things are moving more slowly, he admits. Yet they are moving. In Mercier East, the mayor set up a follow-up committee bringing all stakeholders to the table; the borough has now committed to building a pedestrian and cyclist crossing over the train tracks — one of the bigger and more costly requests. In Park Extension, he said, a follow-up committee has only just been created, but several local organizations have now decided to work together to push for change.

It’s a long-term vision. “What we’re saying is, you have to seize all the opportunities,” said Rabouin. “Streets and sidewalks get redone all the time, so you may as well redo them right!”

The plan for Southeastern NDG is scheduled to be launched mid-June.

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