- April 19, 2018
Bringing eco-development to Malartic, Quebec
The Town of Malartic’s development is intimately linked with that of its mining industry. A tributary of the Cadillac Fault, a major gold deposit, the town suffered a significant decline when the depletion of its riches became noticeable in the 1980s and 1990s. Gradually, the population decreased, and several businesses shut down. Fortunately, a jump in the price of gold drew prospectors back to Malartic in the early 2000s, sparking major real estate development as social and economic activity resumed.
Seventeen years later, following the relocation of a neighbourhood by the mining company and the latter’s brilliant return to form, local development corporation Société de développement économique de Malartic (SDEM) mandated Lemay to structure a process of reflection that would produce orientations and actions to boost citizen involvement and safeguard Malartic’s economic future. The commercial renaissance envisioned by the SDEM would position the town as an attractive location through support to key sectors that would in turn promote positive resident and mining company relations.
An urban design made to measure
Adopting Lemay’s proven urban design approach, the transdisciplinary team – made up of urban planners, architects and urban designers – began working on viable solutions to bring this social project to life.
The first task was to set up public consultations, open to elected officials and residents of all ages, representing both community and economic interests. These led to open discussions on how to revitalize the local economy and how to attract more families, and concluded with a Range of Options exercise. Lemay then conducted an in-depth analysis of socio-demographic elements, the site itself, its busiest areas, its commercial and residential typologies, and a study of similar cases.
Four main objectives emerged from this process. The community and its elected representatives agreed on the importance of the following:
1- Offering high-quality, innovative spaces, strongly connected to the town’s main street, Rue Royale, promoting interaction between businesses and the community;
2-Offering easily accessible spaces that encourage walking and cycling, as part of a green network promoting active transport throughout town;
3-Punctuating spaces with public places on a human scale, offering activity and diversity, and making these places colourful and pleasant, with greenery as a key element;
4-Focusing on small, unconnected successes that are transferable and reproducible that, once developed as part of a community experience and implemented town-wide, will lock into place to form a unique and coherent whole.
“Lemay’s process gave us valuable insight into the issues we were facing,” said Yannick Richard, President of the Société de développement économique de Malartic (SDEM). “The objectives reflect our vision and will help to make our town more attractive.”
A new perspective
The study’s conclusions revealed the need to intervene with regard to key revitalizing elements, to repair any social schism created by mining activities, and to make the town more attractive for temporary workers and families who might settle there.
Three transformation hubs to redefine the town
Buoyed by unanimous approval of its conclusions and suggestions, the team proposed a concrete intervention to unify sectors surrounding the downtown core and bridge their distance from the centre of activity. It identified three high-potential transformation hubs and proposed favourable conditions for a new artery, the Brèche, to connect key sectors.
“By using architecture and urban planning to bridge relational and commercial distances, we crafted and proposed functional, sustainable solutions,” said Pierre Holdrinet, urban planner and project director at Lemay.
The river sector
Characterized by a natural landscape damaged in varying degrees by human presence, the river sector also stands out by its disjointed nature. Wedged between the southern quarter and new neighbourhoods to the north, this sector is nonetheless the key to Malartic’s revival. A precious greenspace that acts as the town’s lungs, it has the potential to rally Malartic residents while bringing them closer to nature.
With this in mind, Lemay proposed an alternative to the traditional single-family development: an eco-development. The latter would be defined by its common (shared) outdoor spaces, which allow for a much more efficient use of space while fostering closer and more harmonious neighbour relations. The team recommended using prefabricated houses to minimize costs and construction impacts, and to preserve the natural forest cover. It also recommended a community garden, multifunctional roadways linking or running alongside parks, and a layout facilitating access to the river
The Royale renewed
Rue Royale is the historic main street of Malartic. Restoring its former glory would also jumpstart the local economy and rekindle civic pride in the area.
The actions proposed for this zone involve a massive renovation of façades and the reconfiguration of streets. These small-scale improvements have the potential for large-scale effects on the entire town. Lemay recommended the creation of terraces, parklets, continuous plantings, pedestrian access to the Parc du Belvédère, and the reconfiguration of parking and bike paths to weave the community back together.
The market and a cultural-technological hub
The sector between Rue Royale and the Parc du Belvédère presents the greatest requalification potential of all. A bolder intervention was proposed to make this sector the driver of the town’s future growth. In line with current urban design and retail development trends, the team proposed a mixed-use, intergenerational development integrating businesses, institutions and residences.
The key element of the proposal, the Brèche, would connect Rue Royale and the Parc du Belvédère, facilitating access to the main street’s facilities. There could be an urban farm, a vegetal wall, a public market, a daycare, a day camp, a youth centre, a seniors’ residence, a health clinic, a multifunctional space, hotel suites and a promenade. In the lead-up to the planned flooding of the open-pit mine, Lemay also suggested greening the mine’s borders.
View the explanatory video of this colossal social project by clicking here.