Monday, 19 November 2007

Île Charron Development Blocked but is the Developer All That Unhappy?

Developer Luc Poirier just learned that the Quebec government is going to block development of 20 hectares on the Île Charron in the middle of the St. Lawrence south of Montreal, but he probably isn’t too unhappy.

In this morning’s Le Devoir he protests that construction of 2500 condo units he is proposing will eventually go ahead, despite the fact that on the weekend environment minister Line Beauchamp put a four year freeze on the land which at the moment adjoins the provincial park formed by several islands. But even if the development is stillborn, he just made more than 2000 per cent profit on the land he bought a year ago for $6 million: he sold the parcel recently for $130 million. And while the title has transferred, he appears to be working for the new owners, the Groupe Cholette.

The land in question lies between one part of the archipelago which already has a hotel and a major highway on it and a gem of a natural reserve, full of wildlife, walking and bicycle trails and inlets which are marvelous of kayaks and canoes. Nearly 20,000 signatures were collected earlier this fall protesting Poirier’s plan, and without doubt that is what the provincial government is responding to.

Poirier is talking about high-rise development in order to get densities that would at once be profitable and not take up too much of the undeveloped land. Initially I thought he might have something, but after further reflection, it seems to me that what he is proposing is far too small to make the kind of “neighborhood” businesses (grocery store, hairdresser, etc.) he says he’d include work. You need at least 10,000 people for that, and 2500 luxury units would likely have nor more than 6,000. In other words, he’s trotted out the New Urbanism to create another Old Suburb in a setting that should be kept for all to enjoy.

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