The City of Montreal has announced plans to renovate the northernmost section of Dorchester Square at an estimated cost of $4.2 million. A $700,000 contract was awarded to noted local landscape architect Claude Cormier to prepare the design and tender specifications.
The section of Dorchester Square to be renovated runs between Peel and Metcalfe from the south entrance to the Dominion Square Building to the ‘camilienne‘ (also known as a vespasienne, it’s the small stone octagonal building with a café in it, identical to the similarly-purposed building in Carré Saint-Louis) and would include extending the green ‘footprint’ of the city square by reducing the number of lanes on the street that runs between the square and the building. Additionally, land around the entrance and exit to the underground parking lot would be reclaimed, somewhat, and pedestrian bridges are to be built over them.
As Andy Riga puts it in the Gazette “Under the current layout, pedestrians must contend with cars entering and leaving an underground parking garage adjacent to the square.”
Contend seems like an odd choice of words to me, as it gives the impression of a taxing struggle. We’re talking about cars slowly moving in to and out of a parking garage in a space that naturally attracts large numbers of pedestrians and has a posted speed limit of 10 km per hour. I no more have to ‘contend’ with the difficulties of navigating vehicular traffic here than any other intersection in the city, but I digress.
What slays me is the bridges over the parking garage access ramps; talk about an over-engineered solution to a non-existent problem.
I can’t recall any serious incident involving a pedestrian struck by a car or a bus on either the side-street or the garage ramps, such that it requires physically segregating one from the other. That said, it might be neat to have a vantage point on the square from several feet above the ground.
But the cost… $4.2 million is a lot of money to be spending on parks beautification in an uncertain economy.
Don’t get me wrong, I like that the city is spending money on our parks and public spaces, I just wonder if we’re really going about this in the most efficient way possible. It seems that all too often the city waits for major renovations and redesigns when better year-to-year maintenance would make that unnecessary.
The other thing to consider is that, as far as Dorchester Square/ Place du Canada is concerned, this would be the third phase of a project that stretches back about seven years and has so far cost $15.4 million. The third phase would increase the total to just under $20 million, assuming the new project’s current estimate is accurate.
It’s worth noting that the plan is to have the renovation completed by August of 2017, after one year of work.
I can imagine at least part of the $4.2 million project cost is related to this unusually rapid turn-around time. The first phase of Dorchester Square’s renovation, completed after about two years of work in 2010, cost $5.4 million and the southern section, Place du Canada, opened in November of last year after being worked on for about the same amount of time, at a cost of $10 million.
Consider that we’re spending $4.2 million to renovate a section of park roughly one-third the size of the space renovated six years ago at a cost of $5.4 million.
In other words, we’re spending a lot more per square meter to renovate a much smaller space.
So perhaps we need to reconsider the expensive novelties – like the pedestrian bridges and the half-fountain.