The Revitalization of Montreal’s Cultural District
Montreal's Quartier des Spectacles (QDS), a central entertainment district extending over one square kilometre, is a priority project for the City of Montreal (Canada) in connection with its 2025 strategic plan. It is also Montreal's largest urban revitalization project in recent years. Designed in part to provide a central hub for various local festivals, the QDS project was seen as a major undertaking along the lines of the Quartier international de Montréal. The project was carried out amid extensive media coverage and very high expectations.
In a consortium with Groupe SM, WSP was in charge of engineering for several phases, including various public plazas: Eugène Lapierre Island, Clark Esplanade, Festival Promenade and Adresse Symphonique Plaza.
Project completion in downtown Montreal presented a major organizational challenge for WSP as the project supervisor. The work had to be orchestrated according to multiple external factors, including a strict schedule given to the presence of various businesses and institutions to which access had to be maintained at all times, the proximity of two subway stations and their tunnel (which meant that the level of shaking/vibrations was restricted), work on adjacent sites and pedestrian safety on adjacent sidewalks.
Such a project requires that engineers have the flexibility to follow the implementation prerogatives of a distinctive urban design project and to adapt swiftly to existing site conditions. The ability to efficiently implement changes while minimizing impact on construction schedule and project costs was one of WSP’s greatest strengths.
This project presented numerous technical challenges with respect to outdoor spaces (e.g. a public plaza made out of granite, culverts with mist effects, gigantic lighting towers, a future outdoor skating rink). Finally, a very large number of disruptions had to be managed: shows, parades, multiple projects carried out simultaneously in different parts of the QDS.
A Multidisciplinary Approach
This mandate was carried out in close collaboration with the team of architects and city planners working on a separate mandate (Daoust Lestage Inc.). Since a very large number of stakeholders were involved, communication and collaboration were vital to ensure the project’s progress.
Our multi-disciplinary expertise was an important contributor to project success. WSP came up with various unique and permanent facilities designed for festival set-up and to ensure the area remains dynamic outside of those periods. These facilities were used as soon as they were built, quickly confirming their durability.
One of the most spectacular features is the culvert equipped with mist and lighting effects. This linear element has a minimum width (230 mm inside) imposed by the architects in order to minimize the grid's imprint on the surface of the plaza; it proved to be a colossal challenge.
To minimize impacts, WSP carried out a planning process following a strict schedule while consulting with various actors, including project stakeholders and other impacted parties.
Our team delivered the following:
- Topographical surveys
- Preliminary designs
- Assisting the architects in design implementation
- Preliminary/definitive plans and specifications (civil, structural, mechanical and electrical engineering)
- Complete supervision of the work: supervisory services were aimed at ensuring that all structures built met the City of Montreal's quality requirements, in accordance with allocated budgets
- Contaminated soil management
- Construction surveying
Sustainability is Key
Winner in the GCQ/Urban Infrastructure category of the Quebec Consulting Engineering Grand Prize in 2015, this state-of- the-art project meets the client’s key criterion: "urban infrastructure development project with accessible public spaces and multiple cultural uses".
Sustainable development concerns were at the core of the QDS redevelopment process. The main goal of the redevelopment was to establish a long-term entertainment hub. In addition, the project provided an opportunity to rebuild the underground urban infrastructure, which included a number of pipes that were nearly 100 years old.