Urban response to the health crisis: Lemay’s regenerative city and its development solutions
Faced with one of the most critical health crises in modern history, Lemay has mobilized to present innovative solutions adapted to the new post-COVID reality. The multidisciplinary team shares its reflections on the city of tomorrow, a notion always at the heart of its practice, to contribute to the well-being of its communities and future generations.
A regenerative city
Lemay wants to make the city healthier, improving the environment and offering quality living spaces, through air purification, soil decontamination and “decarbonization” of our lifestyles. It proposes access to greenspace, water and open spaces, while continuing to focus on mixed use and building density.
Lemay puts forward a city that is no longer synonymous with nuisance, pollution or lack of space, but which meets the needs expressed by its inhabitants for more greenspace, room to move around and suitable places for gatherings and leisure.
In response to the pandemic, cities and urban centres will evolve to place more emphasis on residents’ health and wellbeing. While it is believed density will remain, cultural functions and experiences – such as restaurants and retailers – will change to respond to how we interact with these services.
Furthermore, as the workplace changes, the home will change as employees who choose to work from home will look to adapt their spaces to accommodate new arrangements. For those city dwellers living in small spaces, and/or caring for children or seniors, reimagining healthy and sustainable public space – outdoor and indoor - is critical.
Reassigning the sharing of public space for safer and more user-friendly traffic flows.
Walking and cycling have become essential to pleasant and safe commuting. The streets must become the city's new green and active infrastructure, offering wide spaces to circulate, extensive and multi-generational social spaces, while promoting local and responsible consumer choices.
More specifically, traffic lanes must be narrowed in favour of wider sidewalks, bicycle paths and pedestrian crossings, and fewer parking spaces, as sidewalk signage and protection is installed.
Traffic areas dedicated to solo driving must also be greatly reduced in order to create more reserved lanes for public transit. Their efficiency and speed will prove essential when winter arrives.
Lemay proposes temporary facilities that allow longer-term solutions to be tested: pedestrianization, shared streets, installation of street furniture and more. These facilities can act as living laboratories to improve the design of future living environments.
Lemay produced the development guide for the Réseau Express Vélo REV, an express cycling network that contributes to an improved urban environment through the installation of greenery, furniture and adapted signage. This project represents, in part, the new green and active infrastructure our streets must become. Thoroughfares are transformed into an adapted green axis promoting active mobility. The networking of its major arteries, in all seasons, contributes to the reduction of single-passenger cars and to improving urban air quality.
Offering new quality spaces
The lack of spaces to accommodate large numbers of people, while respecting distancing measures, has proved to be a major problem during this crisis. There is now question of identifying a "cubic metre per resident" to meet the needs of each user, according to the space he or she frequents. This space can then be used to calculate the surface area needed to ensure well-being in public places.
The new public space must be adaptable to different situations, while meeting the needs of all. These spaces become an extension of our home and workplace. Redeveloped parks and public squares must allow for comfortable socializing at a distance, through adapted furniture and signage.
Requalifying underused spaces
During this health crisis, the lack of public space is omnipresent. Yet there is ample vacant land as well as many opportunities for development to improve urban quality of life.
There is a pressing need to transform under-utilized areas – large front yards, parking lots, undeveloped and railway lands and brownfields – into new landscapes and places that are friendly, high-quality and close to home. Sites whose location and size meet the expressed need for adapted space must be identified.
Lemay has created a green corridor on the Island of Montreal: The River-Mountain Corridor. The objective is to connect parks and green spaces in order to offer new recreational and travel routes for both pedestrians and cyclists. To ensure physical continuity, all under-utilized spaces are maximized. By passing through denser urban areas without greenspace, the corridor relies on existing urban centres to animate it.
With this network, the corridor on the Island of Montreal offers new recreational, social and biodiverse sites that enhance urban living. It creates social, environmental, functional and economic benefits.
Lemay is committed to modernizing public facilities to incorporate universal accessibility standards, promote multi-generational spaces and implement exemplary amenities (wider pedestrian circulation areas, more planting, clearer separations, etc.).
New developments must integrate universal accessibility measures in order to encourage all types of users to use public places, regardless of their age, mobility or disability. Their movement and use of space must be safe and, above all, comfortable.
Lemay was also contracted to redevelop Place Vauquelin, at the heart of the Cité administrative, a highly symbolic heritage district for Montreal. The new square features a unique and much-acclaimed integrated ramp-staircase that connects the square to the Champ de Mars below. A low green wall offers a biophilic connection between the esplanade and the square. This universally accessible connection will be extended with the construction of a gently sloping footbridge linking the Champ-de-Mars esplanade to the future Place des Montréalaises and its adjoining metro station.
Inspired by the concept of “positive city” and in line with the Lemay’s unique “Net Positive” approach, the primary intent is to rethink the relationship among different urban layers (residents, public land, built environment, landscape and nature in cities) in order to contribute to the health and development of the citizens who live there, while enriching biodiversity and the quality of the environment.