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Technopôle Angus

Technopôle Angus : the urban revitalisation project leading the way in Montréal

Red brick facades, metal pillars, huge windows and high ceilings… the only traces of the past at this former Canada Pacific Railway working neighbourhood in Rosemont, Montréal are the bare bones. Between 1902 and 1992, these “Angus Shops” were an important site where the trains and locomotives of the CPR were repaired and maintained. After their closure, the land became an industrial fallow for around ten years, until it was given a new lease of life: the site was reconverted into a business and residential area that incorporates all of the latest environmental construction standards.

“It was born out of a disaster,” explains Christian Yaccarini, President and CEO of the Angus Development Company (Société de développement Angus). “After the massive deindustrialisation of the 1980s, which involved the closure of numerous factories, a 20% unemployment rate hit the region and we had a large amount of contaminated land on our hands. We did not want that to continue. We had to find ways to ensure that this site would be sustainably developed.”

The SDA was formed as both a social enterprise and a non-profit organisation. The company bought a plot of the industrial land in Rosemont and designed plans for the space, taking into account the need for sustainable development while at the same time aiming to revitalise the neighbourhood by accommodating both residential and business units.

Today the converted space hosts a shopping centre, restaurants and convenience stores as well as media, IT and health-related services, all working side by side. Several Montréal businesses have signed on to join the project, while around 60 SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), with around 2,300 people on their roster, are now happily settled into the 13 buildings on the site. This has been the first phase in the Technopôle Angus project. One of the final businesses to take up shop here is Taxelco, a company supplying green taxis and run by businessman Alexandre Taillefer.

“These SMEs are attracted to our site because of the quality of the units available to them (they are light and spacious…), as well as the proximity of a potential workforce, and the fact that sustainability is such a key issue for the managers of the development,” says Christian Yaccarini.

Combining sustainable development with profitability

The site, which has a surface area of around 580,000 square feet, contains several open green spaces, whilst all of the buildings have been constructed to LEED environmental standards. A recycling and composting system has been launched on site, as well as a carpooling initiative.

“Environmental concerns should not lead to measures that resemble punishments, or else people will be put off,” adds Christian Yaccarini. The SDA wants to make environmental solutions and economic reality meet in the middle. The company aims to construct “LEED buildings at the same price as normal buildings.”

His solution: “We are choosing investments wisely. We refuse to use the gadgets that do not prove to have an impact on the environmental performance of the building. For example, to make sure that the air is preheated before it enters the buildings, we have used panels from refrigerators to coat the walls, rather than opting for an alternative, more expensive solution.”

An inspiring neighbourhood

“We have totally fallen for the charm of this place, and for its philosophy of creating a sustainable and pleasant environment for the employees. This proves that we can repair our past and not make the same mistakes again. It’s an inspiring message for anyone running a business,” says Isabelle Gratton, president of the firm PMT, specialised in audio-visual postproduction with around 40 employees. “It’s important to us to work in LEED buildings, which benefit our health and well-being.”

The second phase of sustainable development at Technopôle Angus is currently underway. One million square feet of both business and residential space has been planned. The company is looking to host around 40 new enterprises with the hope of creating 1,500 jobs. The space will also include 350 to 400 housing units, of which 20% will be designated for social housing.

“SMEs are attracted to our site because of the quality of the units available (light and spacious etc.), as well as the proximity of a potential workforce, and the fact that sustainability is such a key issue for the managers of the development,” says Christian Yaccarini, president and CEO of the Angus Development Company (Société de development Angus), which oversees the development and urban revitalisation of the former industrial zone.

“We have totally fallen for the charm of this place, and for its philosophy of creating a sustainable and pleasant environment for the employees. This shows that we can repair our past and not make the same mistakes again. It’s an inspiring message for anyone running a business,” says Isabelle Gratton, president of PMT, a company based at Technopôle Angus that specialises in audio-visual postproduction.

By Anne Gaignaire – Les Affaires, North Amercia

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