In urban areas with limited room to build, it’s obvious you have to build up, not out. There’s not a lot of land available for development or redevelopment, and it’s often easier and faster to get around on foot or by bike or métro rather than drive.
In suburban areas with cheaper land and more space to expand, developers tend to build wide rather than tall. For many residents, there is no choice but to drive everywhere. Inevitably, the result is an increase in traffic volume in the city as commuters funnel into downtown.
But an urban planning concept called transit-oriented development, or TOD, will soon reshape Montreal suburbs, creating densely populated developments near bus loops, REM and AMT stations.
A good example of what this could look like in some Montreal suburbs is the type of development now underway in Brossard.
In anticipation of the construction of three REM stations in the area, Mayor Doreen Assaad said Brossard has been proactive about creating policies and plans to concentrate development near light-rail and bus connections to limit urban sprawl.
A few years back, Assaad said council defined a strategic plan for the city that would enable citizens to live, work, be entertained and have all needs met within Brossard, and create neighbourhoods where key needs like groceries and daycare were accessible without a car.
“Brossard is really becoming a well-known name across the island because of the thought that was put into how we plan our city,” Assaad said.
Assaad said there are three areas of Brossard identified for TOD, one near a bus terminal in Chevrier, where there is already a number of condos and townhouses, and two near future REM stations.
But ideally, TOD isn’t just about building condos near transit. At its best, it creates appealing pocket neighbourhoods within even the most car-oriented suburban areas that allow people to take care of most of their daily errands without needing a car.
Devimco’s 2,500-unit Solar Uniquartier project to be constructed near the future Du Quartier station in Brossard, for example, isn’t an ordinary condo project, said Assaad. It’s a whole new neighbourhood designed to include not only places to live, but also shop, work, play and gather as a community. A new 12,000-square-metre public park will be at the heart of the development, with ponds, playgrounds, an outdoor fitness circuit and even a skating rink in winter.
“It will be TOD in its truest and purest form,” Assaad said.
A third TOD project near the future Panama station is also in the planning stages, but Assaad said it will include about 2,000 residential units, as well as a hotel, restaurants, cafés and offices.
At just 60 years old, Brossard is a young city, and growing rapidly. Assaad said the area is expected to increase from about 88,000 citizens to more than 102,000 by 2021. The boom in development has not been without growing pains. Many longtime residents in neighbourhoods of single-family homes found it difficult to accept the idea of densification nearby, she said.
“They came to suburbia to have their backyard and space,” Assaad said. “It makes them feel insecure. They worry about the cost of services and a loss of privacy, but the reality is that this kind of development is easier to police, easier to secure and allows for lower taxation.”