A group that advocates for residents' access to their river is proposing a High Line-like structure in Montreal to better connect the Centre-Sud area and give Montrealers sweeping views of the city, heritage sites, river, and islands.

Les AmiEs du courant Sainte-Marie, which has also called for the creation of a huge urban beach in the Old Port, says that such an elevated pathway would provide a "wonderful window on the river in the east end of Ville-Marie" and become a destination like New York's popular hanging park and the Promenade Plantée in Paris.

Here's what the group envisions.

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Why does Sainte-Marie need an elevated pathway?

In a presentation shared with MTL Blog, Les AmiEs du courant Sainte-Marie says that the borough has tended to fragment the neighbourhood in its public consultations.

As a result, the organization contends that attempts to address issues east of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge "are sometimes timid or even non-existent."

The bridge, it says, also presents a unique obstacle, "[dominating] the landscape and [imposing] a major break between the east and west of the neighborhood."

"To say it is 'the elephant in the room' is no exaggeration."

Les AmiEs is challenging the city to take bold action to better connect Sainte-Marie, which, thanks to development around the bridge and CBC/Radio-Canada campus, is undergoing a huge and rapid transformation.

"The river, the bridge, the railroads and rue Notre-Dame form a whole and should not be treated separately," it says in the presentation.

The group also highlights the untapped potential of the space at the south end of the neighbourhood along rue Notre-Dame, which it calls a two-kilometre stretch of "parks and wastelands to be redeveloped."

"This represents a showcase on the river and a rich heritage that should be explored, as many cities have done." 

The port, with its rail lines and stacks of shipping containers, also denies residents a view of the water.

"The views of the river are fantastic here since the river
widens downstream and the bridge doesn’t block the view," Victor Balsis, the Les AmiEs president, told MTL Blog.

"An elevated promenade on the east side would ensure that people who frequent these spaces could also appreciate the gorgeous views."

What would the elevated path look like?

Balsis called the ambitious proposal and accompanying renderings a "rough draft." But they're nevertheless exciting.

The city already has plans to create an elevated walkway east of rue de la Commune, but the organization's proposal is much more extensive.

"Why should we be content with half a riverfront promenade when we could have a whole one?" Balsis asked.

The presentation calls for the pedestrian bridge to extend from Parc du Pied-du-Courant at rue Poupart, where a belvedere and café are also envisioned, to this extension of de la Commune.

Balsis says the universally-accessible pathway would have "five distinct areas," each roughly 200 metres long.

From the park, according to the group's presentation, "it would then pass under the bridge" and over an adjacent U-Haul lot.

Les AmiEs then hopes the path could cut right through the heritage Canadian Rubber and Molson buildings.

"There, one could find a brewery, a food supply and a terrace overlooking the river."

The organization outlines several "advantages" of the elevated path, including "magnificent and unobstructed views" and "a safe and friendly" way to "avoid" the busy traffic of rue Notre-Dame.

Are there other proposals for Sainte-Marie?

The elevated walkway is just one of the organization's proposals to improve public space in the neighbourhood.

In addition to the Old Port beach, Les AmiEs is calling for improved access to the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, which it calls Montreal's equivalent to the emblematic Brooklyn Bridge.

One of its proposals to "improve the bridge's integration in the urban environment and strengthen its status as a tourist attraction" is to construct a belvedere accessible by elevator.

"This magnificent tool would quickly become a popular attraction for Montrealers because it would offer breathtaking views of the city," the group says.

Another suggestion is to create a linear park down rue Fullum with a stream at its centre ending "in a water basin surrounded by an agora."

All of these proposals, Les AmiEs du courant Sainte-Marie says in its conclusion, are aimed at correcting planning mistakes of the past and preparing the neighbourhood for the tremendous development ahead — and the traffic and population growth it'll bring.

Les AmiEs is urging a "rethink" of the area.

"We must ask ourselves, 'Who owns the river?'"

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