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Saint Lawrence River & Montreal's Old Port Await their Opportunity to Shine

With the arrival of summer, the tourist season, and the 375th anniversary of Montreal, I cannot help but restart the discussion about the future of our Old Port once again.

Vieux-Port Montreal Patinoire, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The site must be the most frequented tourist destination in the province (at least six million visitors each year at Igloofest, fireworks, etc.) – it's sad.

Montreal Science Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Sure, the defunct Societe du Vieux-Port has taken significant steps these past few years in order to improve the site's engagement in events through an urban beach, the Science Centre, the Scena, but we are forgetting an essential feature: the view on the Saint Lawrence River.

Saint Lawrence River, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

How is it possible that the most important boardwalk in Montreal is no more than a large, paved path, designed for cars, rather than an attractive pedestrian promenade lined up with chaise lounges for admiring the beauty of the landscape?

I sincerely hope that the 375th anniversary of Montreal in 2017 (and in fact even the 150th anniversary of the Confederation), could be the triggering factor for Ottawa to revitalize the installations of the Old Port. But nothing allows us to foresee such an initiative. At least not for the time being.

Through calls I have made to the authorities in question, I have confirmed that the discussions are currently under way for the city's anniversary, but that no decision has been made yet. There has been a lot of thinking about the possibility of converting the old Hangar 16 into an events and international exposition centre, but that's it. The vision for the complex seems to have been set aside in the proceedings, yet again.

It's too bad when we consider that the Old Port has cost the taxpayers these past few years, due to the elaboration of a master plan aimed at bringing value to its maritime display.

There are people who ignore it, but the internationally renowned landscape architect, Claude Cormier, has in fact landed on a vision for the complex that would unify the installations of the Old Port. He did so while he was designing the Plage de l'Horloge, wishing to offer Montreal a boardwalk worthy of an international metropolis.

Oh well, the Old Port has made me understand that it's better not to hold one's breath. Its work risks being shelved.

These days, many big North American cities, such as Chicago, Toronto, and New York have invested considerable sums in order to revitalize their maritime displays, and residents and tourists have been happy about this.

To contrast the Old Port, the example of New Westminster Pier Park in British Columbia deservedly received a national urban design prize from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

If your city is located in a maritime area, is there access to the waterfront? Has it been revitalized? Where is your favorite waterfront?

Original article, published in French, can be found here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.