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Putting the protection of Mount Royal views as a top priority

“Must we choose between densification and our view of the mountain?”

This is the title of the La Presse article (French only) that summarizes the position taken by Les Amis. The article was published following a public consultation on January 24 to discuss the expansion of 1500 McGill College Avenue. 

Currently, the answer to this question ostensibly considers densification to be the universal remedy to a series of complex issues being faced by Montréal and its metropolitan region. While densification of the metropolis may be necessary, from the point of view of the municipal administration and Les Amis, to meet housing needs, for example, that does not mean it should be carried out to the detriment of other elements that give character and uniqueness to our urban environment. 

For Les Amis, reconciling densification with the protection of Mount Royal views is possible, depending on certain conditions that only decision-makers can establish.

Protecting views of Mount Royal and its position in the Montréal skyline has already achieved consensus and has been recognized in the City of Montreal's Urban Plan. Nonetheless, in practice, its views are still not being adequately protected. This must become a priority in the regional planning tools being used at various levels. Both the Plan métropolitain d’aménagement et de développement (PMAD) by the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) and the City of Montréal’s Plan d’urbanisme et de mobilité are currently being revised; these tools must validate the importance of views to and from Mount Royal, and enable the protection of said views when decisions are made about densification in the region.

Furthermore, these improved implementation tools must turn the principle of protecting these views into firm and concrete action. Analysis reports looking at the impact on Mount Royal views must be systematically produced for all major construction projects in the downtown area. These reports must then be made available during public consultations. It’s not enough to state that views won’t be impacted—it must also be demonstrated. Urban planning tools, such as the complementary document, must also comprise more direct and firm criteria for protecting landscapes, the mountain’s silhouette in that landscape, and views between Mount Royal and the river.

Rather than choosing between densification and views of the mountain, Les Amis is suggesting a more nuanced approach that favours more strategic densification that limits compaction of the urban fabric in order to save mountain views and equipping ourselves with more effective protection tools.

Redevelopment project to expand 1500 McGill College Avenue 

Located on the corner of Ste-Catherine and McGill College, the redevelopment of Place Montréal Trust will add 13 new floors directly above the existing basilaire.

Les Amis was astonished to discover that for a site as prestigious as McGill College Avenue, the question of its relationship to Mount Royal was not raised in the borough's documentation on the expansion project. In fact, neither the City of Montréal's summary decision, nor the report of the urban planning advisory committee, consider the impact of the proposed building on the landscape of McGill College Avenue, or its impact on views of and from Mount Royal. Consequently, Les Amis has serious questions about the architectural and urban integration parameters that were considered for this project. This omission leads us to worry that the combination of the proposed height and the absence of an adequate lateral setback along McGill College Avenue, may block the breathtaking view one has of the mountain from Esplanade Ville Marie.


Photo: The view from Esplanade Ville Marie is a window to Montréal’s identity, through which we can observe the exceptional natural and cultural characteristics of Mount Royal. In 2022, this visual perspective was enhanced with The Ring. This customized art installation was commissioned by Ivanhoé Cambridge for Esplanade Ville Marie and created by internationally renowned Québec designer, Claude Cormier.


During the public consultation process, we noticed the weaknesses of this minimalist consultation process and the lack of documentation provided for such an important project. We insisted, in particular, on the importance of conducting and then making public an impact study on the views of and from Mount Royal.

To date, there still exists a knowledge gap about the real impact of this project on the views of and from Mount Royal, and we demand that the borough show more transparency.

Otherwise, the expansion of Place Montréal Trust risks being recorded as just another project that adds to the problem of lost views of Mount Royal.

That's why, in the lead up to the public consultations on major planning tools for the Montreal metropolitan region, Les Amis de la montagne intends on increasing its advocacy efforts to ensure that protecting Mount Royal and its views becomes a priority in the decision-making process. 

Read our integral commentary on the 1500 McGill College Avenue expansion.

Read the commentary (in French)

Photo: JF Savaria - Tourisme Montréal


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