Concerns new REM station project will hurt Montreal’s Chinatown

"A disservice to the community," explains Mohand Khouider, a local resident as the last vacant lot on the edge of Montreal's Chinatown, will soon become a train station. Felisha Adam reports.

By Felisha Adam

Some Montrealers fear the city’s very first heritage site may be shrinking once more.

After the city’s Chinatown was named a heritage site earlier this year, many were hopeful in the preservation of the vibrant neighbourhood.

That was until transit authorities announced a plan that would turn a vacant lot, which has been untouched for years, into a train station. It’s all part of a $10 billion light rail project connecting downtown Montreal to the city’s east end.

It’s something advocates and community members worry may shrink the neighbourhood once more.

“It is a pretty heavy infrastructure and … Montreal’s Chinatown has already been kind of affected by numerous expropriations and cordoning off,” said Donny Seto, a member of Chinatown Working Group Montreal (CWG).

Metro Chinatown

Proposed REM idea for downtown Montreal. (Photo Courtesy: CDPQ Infra)

The CDPQ Infra, a subsidiary of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, said in a statement: “(The REM) can become an opportunity to reinvent transportation routes and serve as a lever for the development of the communities it passes through.”

But a member of the Chinatown revitalization group told CityNews their concerns have not been addressed.

And a resident in the area believes the space could have been used differently.

“I wish they could do more of those now cultural or like community events, right?” said Peter Cin. “So I think this is always a good space. So it’s too bad that they’re, you know, using this for subway station.”

As a result of the light-rail project, a plan will include an elevated track along part of René-Lévesque Boulevard right in the heart of downtown Montreal. The historic district’s northern arch – which welcomes visitors – would be blocked

Metro Chinatown

Proposed REM idea for Chinatown. (Photo Courtesy: CDPQ Infra)

“There are a lot of concerns to having this really hard barrier, an elevated barrier at the front of the gate entryway to Chinatown. Not only does it block the northern gates and their visibility, it also blocks views into Chinatown. It blocks access to Chinatown,” said Seto.

Many questioning the decision as the neighbourhood already has existing metro stations within walking distance of the suggested area.

Chinatown’s working group of Montreal says all they want is collaboration to ensure the voices of those within the community are heard.

“To make sure that it has potential to reinforce Chinatown and actually bring about some positive changes in Chinatown, that it will reinforce Chinatown into the future and not erase Chinatown, like many infrastructures historically have already done for this neighbourhood,” said Seto.

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