Marché 440 hopes to transform itself into ‘L’Aparté au Marché’

$300 million re-development would rank it among Laval’s biggest current projects

The owners of the Marché 440 mall and public market on Autoroute 440 in central Laval are eagerly waiting for a green-light from urban planning officials with the city before forging ahead with one of the largest property re-development strategies ever undertaken in Laval.

With an estimated investment of more than $300 million, the value of the Rizzuto family’s Aparté au Marché commercial and residential campus is exceeded only by a few recent Laval re-development projects – the most notable perhaps being Groupe Montoni’s $450 million Espace Montmorency currently underway in downtown Laval.

Residential sought

Led by newly-appointed company president Alexandra Rizzuto, the family’s redevelopment strategy was unveiled during a by-invitation gathering of municipal and provincial government officials last week at the Marché 440 site.

Newly-appointed Marché 440 president Alexandra Rizzuto is confident her company will get the go-ahead from the City of Laval to proceed with its more than $300 million project. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

In keeping with a vision that many retail mall owners have adopted in recent years while adjusting to evolving consumer habits, Marché 440’s owners want to insert an important component of residential development to complement commercial aspects, while creating an environment where both would intersect and seamlessly harmonize.

1,250 housing units

Working with one of Quebec’s leading architects, Sonia Gagné, as well as a seasoned urban planning team overseen by Sylvain Gariépy, they are hoping the city will agree to allow up to 1,250 housing units to be built in an area where pedestrian transit would predominate, and where there would also be plenty of green space, public gathering spots and easy access for bicycles and other “active” modes of transportation.

“This is a very promising project for everybody in Laval – the end-result of more than two years of preparation of which we are very proud. The Aparté au Marché is a unique project in Quebec and places Laval at the forefront in terms of urban planning,” Alexandra Rizzuto said, addressing the gathering, which included City of Laval executive-committee member Sandra Desmeules, leaders from the three main opposition parties, Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellette and Sainte-Rose MNA Christopher Skeete.

More than $300 million

While the overall budget stated by the developer is $300 million, Alexandra Rizzuto said in an interview with the Laval News that the figure is based on a conservative estimate. “That is our bottom line,” she said. “It’s possibly going to be more than that. We’re hoping it’s not, although it may be.”

‘It is a wonderful project that would help revitalize the sector,’ says City of Laval executive-committee member Sandra Desmeules

According to the initial plan, the company would like to conserve the Marché 440’s vocation as a “farmers’ market,” where generations of local agriculturalists and produce growers have come to sell their products to the public. But at the same time, the Rizzutos would like to enhance this aspect with venues for musical and artistic performances.

Additional elements

The planners feel that they would like to include the following elements in the Aparté au Marché project:

  • A green belt along the service road of the A-440, which would serve as a natural barrier between the heavily-trafficked autoroute and the commercial and residential areas;
  • A park space designed for family-type activities;
  • A multi-mode area for sustainable mobility, which would have spaces for car-sharing services like Communauto as well as bike-sharing such as Bixi, along with electric-charge stations;
  • Workshop areas for artists and a multi-purpose room that would feature the works of artisans and artists from the area;
  • Green roofs managed in such a way as to allow future residents to cultivate in community gardens;
  • The site overall would be adapted towards pedestrians and modes of active transportation. According to the planners, a parking area for cars and other motorized vehicles would be underground to free above-ground space.
  • Dedicated work spaces that would allow residents to pursue their professional occupations without having to leave the area they live in.

The Aparté au Marché would eventually consist of five towers, the first of which would be 15 storeys high and located on the western side adjacent to the autoroute. Redeveloped commercial buildings and the outdoor market would be located around this tower, along with some multi-purpose facilities. The four other towers would be located further back in the Aparté au Marché lot, and would be build to denser development standards.

City’s Desmeules optimistic

While there is at least one significant obstacle to resolve before Laval allows the project to go ahead, Sandra Desmeules (the only senior representative of the administration on hand for the unveiling) sounded optimistic.

“It is a wonderful project that would help revitalize the sector, and we are in favour of such a project,” she told the Laval News. “Our employees and the entire administration will be working in partnership with Marché 440 to see this project through. The truth is we want to help them with this as much as possible.”

According to the president of the Marché 440 merchants’ association, shop operators and tenants are also pleased with the plan.

Marché merchants pleased

“The retailers have helped a lot to improve the availability of Quebec food products while adapting themselves for the arrival of a new clientele coming from residential developments near Marché 440,” said Pierre Francoeur. “We are receptive to the idea of participating in this new phase in the development of our marché.”

A view from the edge of Autoroute 440 of what the Marché 440 site looks like now. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

As for the obstacle, it concerns an administrative undertaking the City of Laval has had underway for some years now: the re-writing of the legal code for its master urban plan, in which residential construction next to major highways would become much more restricted. This is in keeping with an increasingly prevalent urban planning view that noise and pollution from heavily trafficked autoroutes can undermine the health of people living too close to them.

Proximity to autoroute

Although he expressed great enthusiasm overall for the Aparté au Marché project, Sainte-Rose MNA Christopher Skeete acknowledged the potentially contentious issue of its close proximity to the 440 autoroute.

“Definitely a concern,” he said, recalling from his own urban planning studies that 400 metres was usually prescribed as the proper distance between busy roadways and residential neighbourhoods.

However, he added, “This project takes that into consideration. They’re building with that in mind and are following the norms that exist with regards to building near highways.”