Dorchester Square renovation delayed again


    Montreal seems to have a problem with renovation planning.

    The city is delaying another high-profile project. This time it’s the final phase of the Dorchester Square makeover, which was supposed to start in August 2016 and be completed by August 2017.

    The $4.2-million project targeted the northern part of the square and Dorchester-Square St., home to downtown Montreal’s main tourism office, where the sidewalks and roadway are crumbling. 

    The original timeline was announced in February, when the city approved a $709,000 contract for design work and tender specifications.

    Montreal is postponing the project because, among other reasons, it doesn’t want the downtown square to be a construction site during the city’s 375th anniversary in 2017, Renée Pageau, a city spokesperson, told the Montreal Gazette.

    An artist's rendering shows plans for the northern part of Dorchester Square.

    Plans call for the vespasienne to be renovated and a new fountain installed in Dorchester Square.

    She said the city is not sure when Dorchester Square will be renovated but does not expect the delay to increase costs. She said work would begin “at the earliest toward the end of 2017.”

    It’s unclear why city hall did not consider the impact on 375th festivities when it scheduled the work in February. Montreal started making announcements about the 375th in 2014.

    The city has postponed several projects in recent months.

    Shelved projects include the renovations of Place Jacques-Cartier (the bid was too high), Viger Square (the city does not have the go-ahead from Quebec) and the Biodôme (bids came in at twice the amount expected). 

    Artist rendering showing plans for northern part of Dorchester Square. Courtesy of City of Montreal.

    Work on the northern section, initially expected to be completed in the spring of 2011, has been repeatedly delayed.

    Under the Dorchester Square plan, the vespasienne (an octagonal building that was once a public washroom) is to be renovated and a new fountain installed. Granite paths and bridges over parking-lot ramps are also planned. Part of Dorchester-Square St. will be partly taken over by green space.

    In 2010, the city finished renovating the southern part of Dorchester Square at a cost of $5.4 million. 

    Work on the northern section, initially expected to be completed in the spring of 2011, has been repeatedly delayed. 

    Dorchester-Square St. was closed for 18 months over 2011-2012 so the city could fix the deficient concrete roof slab of the parking lot under the street. In 2012, citing concerns about corruption and collusion, the city temporarily stopped signing construction contracts.

    Then the city’s focus turned to an adjacent square — Place du Canada, to the south of Dorchester Square. Place du Canada reopened in November 2015 after a $10-million renovation.

    Initially known as Dominion Square, in 1989 the southern part of the public space was re-christened Place du Canada and the northern section Dorchester Square.

    Newly opened Dorchester Square in downtown Montreal as seen from the 7th floor of the Gazette office, looking south Friday, June 25, 2010.

    The view of Dorchester Square from the seventh-floor offices of the Montreal Gazette.

    People sit in Dominion Square (now known as Dorchester Square) behind the Dominion Square Building, in 1961.

    Dominion Square, now known as Dorchester Square, in 1961.

    1945: Dominion Square (now Place du Canada to lower-left and Dorchester Square to lower-right). Montreal Gazette files

    Dorchester Blvd. (now René-Lévesque Blvd.) intersects Dominion Square in 1945. The area at left, or south, is now called Place du Canada while Dorchester Square is to the north.