Property Biz Canada
Make Champlain Bridge an ‘architectural icon,’ says Montreal real estate broker new
Property Biz Canada
Thu Jan 17 2013
Real estate icon and founder of Leopold Montreal Real Estate Inc, Stephen Leopold, is calling for a bridge to prosperity in Montreal, and he’s not speaking metaphorically.
The federal government has expressed intentions to replace the Champlain Bridge, which connects the Island of Montreal and the South Shore, as it approaches the end of its life cycle.
Hundreds of millions of dollars, in the meantime, have been directed toward maintaining the aging bridge’s safety. An assessment report in 2011, done for the federal Crown corporation that manages the bridge, highlighted its shortcomings and warned it could collapse.
Benefits from iconic infrastructure
In terms of a replacement, Leopold is calling for something beyond a run-of-the-mill structure to replace what is the most heavily traveled bridge in Canada and six kilometres long. He wants “the greatest architectural icon of the 21st Century” to become the new Champlain Bridge – something that would attract the kind of international recognition garnered by things such as the Eiffel Tower in France and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
Photo credit: The Champlain Bridge, Blanchardb, Wikipedia
Leopold has been giving speeches about this idea, has formed an organization dedicated to the cause called AudaCite Montreal and has recruited some heavy hitters from the Montreal business community to back him up, including investment mogul Stephen Jarislowsky, real estate tycoon Jonathon Wener, Power Corp. chairman Paul Desmarais Jr, and CIBC Chairman Charles Sirois.
Why is Leopold making such a fuss over a fancy bridge? He cites structures like the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, the Viaduc de Millau in France, the London Tower Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco as proof that practical infrastructure, if designed beautifully, can become things people around the world want to see.
Helping the real estate market
He said such an attraction would add billions of dollars to the economy of Montreal, and Canada in general, and give the commercial real estate sector a jolt.
“No. 1, it’ll stimulate real estate development by being one of the great, great architectural icons of the world. We’re going to need a massive amount of new hotel space.”
He added that supporting businesses for tourism, such as restaurants and shops, would also need space. “And then comes places where people have to live who are employed by all these industries.”
Leopold wouldn’t speculate on numbers when it comes to how an iconic bridge would affect Montreal’s real estate market, but he did say: “If you inject a few billion dollars into any economy annually then you’re going to have a few billion dollars worth of real estate built, that’s for sure.
Leopold wants the government to hold an international competition, inviting the world’s best architects and engineers to submit their ideas on how to create something that would become an image people around the world would associate with Montreal.
He feels it should make a bold statement to U.S. tourists in particular, who are likely to cross the Champlain Bridge when traveling to Montreal by vehicle.
Cost and benefits
Leopold cites world class architects who contend that creating iconic structures are not always more expensive than the conventional alternatives. But even if more money is required, the economic benefits down the road would more than make up for it, he said.
“I don’t know whether the Sydney Opera makes money or not, but even if their own opera loses $1 million a year, I can tell you that the Sydney Opera House makes a few billion dollars a year for Sydney and for all of Australia every year.”
He also said there would be no reason for resentment from other parts of the country if the federal government decided to use taxpayer dollars to create a breath-taking new version of the Champlain Bridge. Leopold feels the whole country would share both the pride and economic benefits of such an achievement.
“When Vancouver had the Olympics, was there anybody in Toronto or Ottawa that was less proud of Canada than a Vancouverite?” he said. “Montreal is one of the great cities of the world and is an extremely important part of Canada. When the world sees Montreal, they see Canada, they understand Canada.”
Ask San Franciscan's if the design was right choice
“Ask any San Franciscan if they should have gone utilitarian and unimaginative 75 years ago when they created the Golden Gate and they’d laugh in your face. The Champlain Bridge gateway to Montreal is a comparatively long span and is the most traveled bridge in all of Canada. It lends itself to being a canvas for greatness. Bridges by definition tend to be evocative and breathtaking structures. This is a once in a century opportunity.”
Leopold would not speculate on what such a bridge should look like, saying he will leave that to architects.
He did, however, say it would be appropriate for it to somehow showcase the availability of a particular commodity Quebec is known for and in which Quebec leads the world – renewable, clean and green hydroelectricity.
Among the ways it could do this, he suggested, is by having turbines attached to in the rapid waters below the bridge that generate enough electricity to heat the roads, roadbed, ending the need for ice-melting salt that eventually falls into the St. Lawrence River as hundreds of tons of untreated toxic sludge composed of salt, snow, glycol and brake fluid.
“This bridge needs to announce, for Montreal and for Quebec, that we have energy the world wants, just like the Statue of Liberty announced to the world that the United States would greet immigrants with open arms,” he said.