Bonaventure Project

Montréal, Québec 

Photo Credit: Marie Eve Boisvert


Initial Research by: Vincent Rara

Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2019


Project: Bonaventure Project 

Type of Urban Strategy: Ecological Infrastructure

Type of ProjectUrban Reconstruction 

LocationMontréal, Québec

Date Designed/Planned: 2011

Construction Completed:  2017

Designer: Groupe Rousseau Lefebvre


The Bonaventure Project marked Montréal's 375th birthday and served as a gateway that invites the world to downtown Montréal. The site was once the location of an elevated expressway that had visitors travel over Griffintown, a neighbourhood that consisted of blue-collar workers. After WWII the neighbourhood would experience population numbers as low as 1,000 residents. Slowly, the fate of Griffintown began improving. The condo boom of the early 2000s attracted residents, and today the median income for a condo buyer in the area is higher than the median income of those buying homes in other parts of the city. The elevated expressway is now a ground-level boulevard. The Bonaventure Project has brought much needed green public space to the area and has also begun correcting traffic circulation issues the area had been experiencing for years. Griffintown has now become reintegrated into the urban fabric of the city due to the success of the Bonaventure Project.



The hosts of the Expo ’67 had visitors from the south approach over the Champlain Bridge and drive over the factories and slums of Griffintown before reaching the city core (Lindeman, 2018).

Griffintown was first settled in the early 1800s by Irish immigrants who followed jobs created by industrialization. More would soon follow after Ireland’s Great Famine and would turn the area into a distinct Irish enclave (Lindeman, 2018). After WWII as little as 1,000 people lived in Griffintown, and in 1963, the area was re-zoned for industrial development to accommodate the Bonaventure Expressway (Lindeman, 2018). In the 1980s Montréal purchased swaths of Griffintown, and various programs would allow Griffintown to benefit from the condo boom of the early 2000s. The median income for condo buyers in the area is $80 000, $7,000 higher than the average salary of home buyers in other parts of Montréal (Lindeman, 2018).


The Bonaventure Expressway is owned partially by Ottawa between the Champlain Bridge and the Lachine Canal while Montréal owns the portion from the canal to downtown. The Bonaventure expressway drops to ground level once it reaches Robert-Bourassa Blvd (formerly University Street) with Duke and Nazareth Streets acting as parallel service roads (Riga, 2016). Before road closure due to construction, approximately 25,000 drivers used Bonaventure with 2,000 buses using the highway from morning through to the afternoon. These buses provided service to South Shore residents traveling to and from downtown Montréal. Before construction, there were a total of 11 lanes which consisted of six on Bonaventure, two on Duke and three on Nazareth. After construction, there will be a total of nine lanes with four going northbound on Duke and five heading south on Nazareth (Riga, 2016).


For over three decades, Jean Drapeau was the Mayor of Montréal. During his time in office, infrastructure was quickly and inadequately constructed to meet deadlines (Lindeman, 2018). One of his projects, the original elevated Bonaventure expressway was designed for Expo ’67. This project would negatively impact and isolate the adjacent Griffintown neighbourhood. In the early 2000s, the city would begin to reconsider what should be done to amend the situation (Lindeman, 2018). Montréal would decide to replace a portion of the elevated expressway with a ground level urban boulevard to re-establish the links between the sectors that the expressway had segregated. The Bonaventure Project would officially begin in 2011 (Project Bonaventure, n.d.).


The vision for the Bonaventure project was to “create a prestigious and user-friendly entrance to downtown, mesh together disparate neighbourhoods, and support urban development” (Lindeman, 2018). The new green space would also help mitigate the effects of urban heat island effect and make the area more attractive for new residents. The removal of the elevated expressway would also help in the unification of the waterfront (Lindeman, 2018). Bonaventure Project is to be a gateway that welcomes the world to a dynamic metropolis of Montréal. It is a project that improves the quality of life for residents (McGillimmobilier, n.d.).


Design decisions revolved around creating a functional, prestigious and user-friendly entrance; the promotion of adjacent neighbourhoods along the north-south axis and east-west axis; and supporting urban redevelopment through strategic public interventions (Project Bonaventure, n.d.). Analysis of traffic flow had a large impact on the decisions made, because it highlighted a need for improved interaction between pedestrians, cyclists, public transit, and vehicular traffic. Roughly 27, 000 motorized vehicles would move through the site daily (Project Bonaventure, n.d.). Removing the elevated expressway would reallocate 65% of land to active transportation, 10% more space to public transit, and reduce space for automobiles from 70% to 25% (Project Bonaventure, n.d.).

Due to having historical ties to both industry and the port, the site would have high archaeological potential, and this led to the relocation of underground infrastructure to keep the site’s archaeological integrity (Project Bonaventure, n.d.).

Multiple documents would also provide direction for how the design would develop such as:

-Montréal's Master Plan

-Economic Development Strategy Success

-Tree Policy

-Corporate Action Plan for Climate Protection

-Policy for a Peaceful and Safe Environment

-Peaceful and Safe Environment Montréal

-Montreal Family Policy

-Cultural Development Policy of the City of Montréal (2005-2015)

-STM Corporate Business Plan (2007-2011)

-AMT Strategic Plan (2003)

-Protection and Enhancement Plan for Mount Royal (2008)

-Heritage Policy

(Ocpm, n.d.)


The project team would develop a concept that emphasized public and active transportation, with a long-term goal of the advancement of sustainable urban transportation. The team sought out innovative solutions that established a relationship between transportation, the development of public spaces, and the combining of public art and a significant infrastructure project. Utilizing modeling of traffic flows with PTV Vissim and Aimsun software ensured the project was technically sound so the main roadway configuration would improve the site (TAC, 2018). The project team also was in charge of monitoring and providing feedback every week on the status of the work that was in the process of being completed. These weekly meetings not only ensured consistent progress, but also that there was strong compliance with the original concept (TAC, 2018).


Bonaventure Expressway makeover includes new park, art and walkways.” Published September 6, 2017.

“Bonaventure Expressway to be replaced with boulevard, Denis Coderre says” Published December 19, 2014.

“Bonaventure Expressway turned Boulevard.” Accessed March 12, 2019.

“Bonaventure Project – First SITES v2 certification in Canada + Laureate of the GRANDS PRIX DU DESIGN.” Accessed March 12, 2019.

“Bonaventure Project Full Submission TAC 2018 Sustainable Urban Transportation Award.” Accessed March 12, 2019.

Bryan-Baynes, Elysia. “Repairs needed less than a year after Bonaventure Expressway park opens.” Published August 3, 2018.

“l’historique.” Accessed March 12, 2019.

“la management des rues et des trottoirs.” Accessed March 12, 2019.

“la mise en valeur du patrimoine.” Accessed March 12, 2019.

“la vision” Accessed March 12, 2019.

“les interventions en transport” Accessed March 12, 2019.

Lindeman, Tracey. “The Unconventional Beauty of Montreal’s New Bonaventure Expressway.” Published November 6, 2018.

“Public art: at the heart of the Quartier Bonaventure Development Plan.” Accessed March 12, 2019.

Riga, Andy. “Say goodbye to elevated stretch of Bonaventure Expressway.” Published July 7, 2016.

“sequence des travaux.” Accessed March 12, 2019.


Traffic conditions created the biggest concern for individuals, and the change in traffic flow in the city was one of the largest impacts the project had. For Mayor Coderre, the impact on traffic was about “redefining the way that you’re getting to the city.” (Riga, 2016) The bus-only lanes between Duke and Nazareth street have addressed a decade long problem of 1,900 busses crossing residential areas daily (TAC, 2018). Smart use of technology improves the safety of users from message boards, automatic surveillance, automatic adjustment of signal light timing (TAC, 2018). While the project addresses Griffintown’s need for more green space, people such as Valérie Plante point out that "Making a park in the middle of an autoroute, we really doubt we are meeting the needs of families and people in the area" (CBC, 2017). The Canadian census indicates that Griffintown has experienced a 642% population growth between 2011 and 2016, so once the trees mature, the Bonaventure Project may become a crown jewel for Montréal (Lindeman, 2018).


Montreal’s Mayor from 1954 to 1986 was Jean Drapeau. During this time Expo ’67 and the 1976 Olympics would put Montréal on the world stage. Poor quality infrastructure arose at rapid rates, and this was especially the case in poorer neighbourhoods. Drapeau combined low-quality concrete and bad design choices. Griffintown was neglected, sitting on the western flank of the Bonaventure Expressway (Lindeman, 2018).


To celebrate Montréal's 375th birthday, mayor Denis Coderre announced the creation of a new entryway to the city’s downtown (Riga, 2016). The project would begin in 2014 and would begin with the demolition of the elevated expressway (CBC, 2017).


The north end of the boulevard features a piece titled Dendritesby artist Michel De Broin. The south end features a piece titled Sourceby Spanish artist Jaume Plensa (TAC, 2018). Plensa’s work will be on display for a minimum of 25 years (CBC, 2017). This project introduced hundreds of trees, thousands of perennials and shrubs, rain gardens, and nearly five football fields of public green space (Lindeman, 2018). The sidewalks along Duke and Nazareth are widened to a seven-meter width and planted with trees to provide shade and a physical barrier for pedestrians from the traffic (Riga, 2016). With a lack of public space within an 800m radius of the old highway, the project creates a series of public spaces that utilizes “12 sun loungers strategically oriented to maximize their exposure to sunshine, 8 picnic tables, 2 ping pong tables, 1 children's playground, 1 training area and 1 canine exercise area.” (Project Bonaventure, n.d.)


Initial estimates at the beginning of the project were $90 million, with the detailed pre-project design cost amounting to $141.7 million. The new evaluation was due to a combination of civil engineering work and the expansion of the project territory. While project costs increased, the economic benefits for the city are also projected to increase considerably.

Cost of Works

- Bonaventure Expressway ($2008)

-Acquisition of land $200,000

-Traffic management $19,730,223

-Work site Organization (10%) $7,407,847

-Construction contingencies $12,809,370

-Professional fees and project management $11,334,005

Total Before Taxes $125,559,911

GST 5% $6,277,996

PST 7.5% $9,887,843

TOTAL COST $141,725,750

(Ocpm, n.d.)

The provincial government would contribute to replacing the elevated structure with a ground-level boulevard. These funds were granted under the Agreement Montréal 2025 (McGillimmobilier, n.d.). During construction, they were able to reuse 95% of the 47,000 tonnes of concrete from the demolished structure, generating savings of $450,000, which helped keep the project on a budget (TAC, 2018).