McMurchie: 21st century growth hinges on development, density and young families

Pointe Claire plans to capitalize on its intensive infrastructure investments

By Robert Frank
“How will Pointe Claire fare with the aging demographic indicated in the latest census results?” a confident Mayor Bill McMurchie asked rhetorically. “Very well, thank you.”
Although the 2011 census showed that the West Island demographic is aging much more rapidly than all other Montreal island communities, Mayor McMurchie believes that the next census will show the start of a turnaround for his city.
“The next census will indicate that the children of baby boomers will be having babies,” affirmed the mayor.
Mayor McMurchie is quick to credit the city’s strength to past administrations whose vision enriched residents’ lifestyle with an abundance of parks, pools, libraries and recreational activities.
However the mayor can take credit for having galvanized city council to move forward with an ambitious development plan for the 21st century. The aim is to capitalize on the city’s family friendly infrastructure to make it more attractive to young members of the baby-boomlet generation who want to settle down.
Crews have already spent the past two summers laying down new sewer and water lines that contrast sharply with Montreal’s perpetually bursting water mains. It’s the kind of canny infrastructure investment that, while seemingly boring, will open the door to new development.
“We now have some fairly large residential areas which can be developed in the short term,” Mayor McMurchie told The Suburban in an interview at his city hall office, “and densification is there in the long-term urban plan that was adopted by city council.”
Condominiums, he said “are part of the densification program. It is there in the urban plan and that in turn finds itself in zoning bylaws which permit fairly dense residential areas.”
“Densification will also involve some existing areas of Pointe Claire, particularly in areas where the city doesn’t have vacant land to developed,” Mayor McMurchie anticipated.
“There comes a time—and it is upon us now—where our housing stock is no longer the type of accommodation that is suitable. We already have areas like that.”
“That’s already happening along St. Louis,” the mayor said of the street’s Veterans Land Act homes built for returning soldiers in 1946-47.
“Today many of those homes are still good, but some of them have gone past their useful life, are being purchased for the land and demolished, and new homes are being built. That’s a form of renewal which takes place within any built-up city.”

Satellite downtown to grow

Pointe Claire’s industrial and commercial area is also poised for development during the next decade or so, the mayor added, “as one of the satellite cities envisioned by the old Montreal Urban Community.”
That urban plan provided for two alternate, eastern and western downtowns: one at St. John boulevard and Highway 40; the other at Highway 40 and Galeries d’Anjou.
“The city has commissioned a study of the Pointe-Claire industrial-commercial area,” explained Mayor McMurchie, “which is well underway and will be submitted to council shortly.”
“It will indicate the extent and health of industrial components in that area as well as the commercial potential of that area, which is essentially from Hymus north to Labrosse.”
“Pointe Claire is quite fortunate from a planning point of view in having more than a $1 billion of taxable commercial real estate,” the mayor enthused.
“The Fairview shopping centre is the third-most valuable taxable property on the island,” he noted, “after Place Ville Marie and Complexe Desjardins.”
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