What to do with the Shell Refinery

Credit to Kristian Gravenor for highlighting the region

A little while back I saw this post on Coolopolis and it got me thinking – what would I do, if I were Mayor, with this rather fortuitous recent development.

As it stands, my understanding is that there is only one fully operating refinery still functioning on the Island, though there are still plenty of oil storage sites. The area highlighted in the aerial perspective is an absolutely massive piece of property, which also happens to include two old quarries, a railyard, an industrial zone and the metropolitan golf course.

So what would I do? It’s largely dependent on what Shell wants to do, but if they have no actual inclination to resume refining operations and would rather sell their land to the City for redevelopment, I would gladly enter into an agreement to assist Shell in decontaminating the site. This would be vital if there is an interest to convert the site for eventual settlement, really of any kind. It has tremendous potential as a new high and medium density urban residential zone, being as large as the Plateau, Mile-End, Villeray, Rosemont and Parc-Ex combined. Moreover, it would certainly justify expanding Métro access along several corridors into the Eastern portion of the island, and is already easily accessible by road. Imagine what another 500,000 people could provide for the City in terms of tax revenue. Part of the problem is that part of this sector actually belongs to Montreal-East, a separate municipality. A voluntary annexation plan would have to be drafted, though I can imagine now that Shell is packing up its operations, there may be a new enthusiasm to be part of the City’s Master Plan.

But in order to get here, we’d have to aggressively decontaminate the soil, and a measure that could be used to do just that could also provide Montréal with a massive new nature park. I would use the opportunity, and our province’s cadre of university-graduate forestry engineers, to design and build a massive new ecological preservation zone on this site. It wouldn’t be forever, as there would be far too high a demand to re-develop the site to generate a steady tax revenue. But for the amount of time that it takes to render the area useable, we may as well try to return the land to its natural, pre-development state. I would go so far as to hire students to plant all varieties of flora for the entirety of a summer to help speed-up the process. It couldn’t hurt. And why stop there – animals, reptiles, birds, fish and amphibians ought to be re-introduced to help develop the area into a stable, sustainable eco-system. Not only could it potentially help clean the soil quicker, but it will also allow for the creation of a new geography and ecology for the area. In order to properly return the area to its pre-development state, we’d have to include ponds, streams, creeks and brooks, a varied topography, areas of dense forest, marshland and open fields.

I would look at it as an invaluable tool for the study of conservation, preservation and ecological regeneration methods. We’d have a golden opportunity to become world leaders in this field, and could support the project through research grants at the provincial, national and international levels.

But perhaps most importantly – when it does eventually come time to redevelop large sections of the sector for residential purposes, we’ll have already taken care of an important element in community building – having a large green space and having something beautiful to look at, play in etc. I would hope that future urban planning and residential development would be able to better integrate itself into an established large ecological zone, in a manner quite different from the slash and burn methods of previous generations.

Something to think about I guess.

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