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Redeveloping Sites

Redevelopment Of The Angus Site — Montréal, Quebec


Provide a socially mixed residential community by redeveloping the Angus Shops industrial complex.

Target group

Low- and moderate-income households living in co-operative, non-profit and public housing.


Montréal’s Angus Shops were opened by Canadian Pacific Railways (CPR) in 1902 to maintain trains and locomotives. During World War II, as many as 12,000 people worked on the site. Working-class neighbourhoods grew up around the Angus Shops. In the early 1970s, CPR began to close all its maintenance shops. Plans to develop a major residential and commercial project on 40 hectares (100 acres) of the site’s eastern part had to be withdrawn after encountering fierce opposition from local merchants. The land was sold to a non-profit agency jointly administered by the City of Montréal and the Government of Quebec. Community organizations mobilized and demanded that 100 per cent of the units be social housing. In the end, over 2,500 units of housing (60 per cent market and 40 per cent co-operative, non-profit and public) were developed over a 10-year period starting in 1984. The neighbourhood is a mixed, integrated community of people from different social and ethnic backgrounds. The planned environment respected the traditional Montréal city block, and the scale and architectural design lent a homogeneous quality applicable to both market and social housing.

While this case study deals with the 1984 to 1993 Angus Shops redevelopment, this was only the first of two major redevelopments on the old CPR site. A subsequent redevelopment of the remaining 50 hectares (125 acres) took place beginning in the mid-1990s, but without the same focus on affordable housing (see the text box below for a comparison).


Background and context

The Angus Shops in eastern Montréal were opened in 1902. They were the major industrial complex for maintaining Canadian Pacific Railway trains and locomotives. During World War II, over 12,000 employees worked on the site. The location of the Angus Shops maintenance complex played a major part in the growth of the surrounding residential neighbourhoods, including the working-class districts of Plateau Mont-Royal to the west, Frontenac and Hochelaga–Maisonneuve to the south, and Rosemont to the north.

CPR closed the Angus Shops over a 20-year period starting in the 1970s. The first step in the process occurred in the early 1970s when CPR chose a 40-hectare (100-acre) site for redevelopment on the eastern half of the shops. The decision to act at that time tied into the Olympic site development, which was being conducted nearby for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games, as well as the extension of the subway system to this area of the city. The site is only a few streets from Montréal’s world-renowned Botanical Gardens, the Olympic Stadium and Maisonneuve Park. It is a short bus ride to the subway system.

The Angus Shops just after the Second World War
The Angus Shops just after the Second World War
Source: Canadian Pacific Archives

The neighbouring area in the early 1980s was poor and predominantly working-class. Thirty-seven per cent of the population earned less than $15,000, and 54 per cent, less than $20,000.

In 1977, CPR decided to use its subsidiary, Marathon Realty, to develop a 40-hectare (100-acre) part of its industrial site, no longer functioning for railway use, for a commercial and residential project. The Angus Shops redevelopment attracted intense public scrutiny concerning the use of the land and, in particular, as to whether the site would be residential and/or commercial. Marathon’s commercial development proposal was hotly contested by local merchants from nearby streets, organized into their own merchants’ association, who feared the overwhelming competitive presence of a commercial shopping centre. They succeeded in convincing the municipal administration to zone the site strictly residential. Subsequently, Marathon Realty lost interest in direct development.

How the redevelopment of the Angus site worked

When Marathon Realty became disinterested, the Rosemont Housing Committee, an umbrella group of local community organizations, seized the opportunity to put forward demands for social housing that local groups had supported for many years. The group organized on the basis that the entire project should be 100 per cent low-rent public housing. In addition, it was assisted in drafting an urban plan by faculty and students from the Université de Montréal.

In 1983, the City of Montréal and the Government of Quebec signed an agreement to purchase the land and create a non-profit agency, the Société des terrains Angus (STA), to acquire and sell the land to for-profit and not-for-profit developers. The STA’s first mandate was to prepare a development plan, consult and ensure feedback from the population, and obtain municipal and provincial approvals. Public consultation in 1983 and 1984 focused on the social mix, non-profit and for-profit housing tenure and the urban plan.

The Rosemont Housing Committee modified its original position on social tenure, advocating a mix of public, co-operative and non-profit housing for all units on the site. It was in 1978 that the National Housing Act was amended to incorporate the non-profit and co-operative housing program, as earlier housing programs were focused primarily on public housing.

Planning the physical aspects of the redevelopment plan

At the same time, a group of students, under the direction of Pierre Morisset from the Université de Montréal, worked closely with local community organizations on the urban plan and presented “a democratic plan based on the user’s point of view” at the public hearings. Some highlights of the plan are set out below:

  • Integrate the development into the traditional Montréal urban fabric.
  • Recreate the typical city block: three-storey, row housing with facades on the street and interior land separating two rows of buildings.
  • Promote diversity by dividing the street into several projects, while respecting the overall scale.
  • Prevent social stigmatization so that buildings destined for low-income residents would not stand out architecturally.
  • Construct small-scale projects with different architectural identities, varying according to the width and height of facades.
  • Provide on-street parking, with lawns separating sidewalks from building lines.
  • Provide room for parking, pedestrian walkways and landscaping behind the properties.

The STA hired Daniel Arbour & Associates to prepare its development plan. The plan incorporated many of the elements of the Morisset study and was discussed at the public hearings. The principal features of the final approved development plan provided were as follows:

  • The majority of units were to be two- and three-bedroom units for families.
  • There would be a diversity of architectural styles.
  • The majority of the buildings were to be three and a half storeys.
  • There would be small public parks with bicycle and foot paths.
  • Commercial establishments would be in place to serve local needs.
  • There would be different kinds of buildings, ranging from semi-detached through duplex, triplex, multiplex and apartment buildings.
  • Most streets were to be reserved for only local traffic, and two major streets were to accommodate heavier traffic circulation and integration into the surrounding neighbourhood.
  • On-street parking would be permitted except on major arteries.
  • There would be different housing types in each zone.
  • Continuity of scale within segments of the street would be ensured.
  • Local streets were to have lower density.
  • Housing for seniors was to be near bus stops, green spaces and commercial services.

The Angus residential neighbourhood was developed over a 10-year period starting in 1984. Most of the features of the original Morisset and Arbour plans were retained, with subtle shifts toward uniformity in building types. In the treatment of the buildings, there were relatively few differences between the private for-profit and the social housing. The differences were expressed mainly in the way the private and semi-private space surrounding the properties was planned.

An affordable seniors’ residence in the redeveloped Angus Shops area
An affordable seniors’ residence in the redeveloped Angus Shops area
Source: CMHC

Social integration in a new neighbourhood

Property tenure was the object of much debate between the authorities and local community organizations during the planning phase of the Angus development. By the end of 1991, 2,587 units were developed, of which 40 per cent were social housing and 60 per cent, market housing. The different forms of tenure included co-operatives, condominiums, single-family homeownership housing, private rental housing and public housing, as presented in the following table.

Mix of Dwelling Tenures in Angus Shops Redevelopment
  Type Number of Units % of Total
Social Housing Seniors
Equity co-op
Total Social Housing   1,043 40
Market Housing Condominium
Total Market Housing   1,544 60
Total   2,587  

Studies have shown that different forms of tenure shaped the social life of each sector in the Angus community. For example, in the northwest quadrant, primarily social housing was built around a public park, including six co-operatives, a public housing project for families, a non-profit group for single persons and a 42-unit privately owned rental property. In total, there were over 250 units representing 25 per cent of all social housing units in the entire neighbourhood. Co-operatives by their nature encourage collective interaction between members. The landscaping in the backyards of the housing co­operative buildings and the central park were the focus of considerable social activity.

Elsewhere in the Angus project, there were homeowner and rental condominiums, social housing and privately owned rental apartment buildings. Landscaping in front of the condominium properties was highly valued and gave neighbours a chance to socialize. Outside of the northwest quadrant, the four public parks were surrounded by condominiums or single-family homes, and their use was restricted to quiet activities (except where there was equipment for children).

A typical street in the redeveloped Angus Shops area
A typical street in the redeveloped Angus Shops area
Source: CMHC

Most people living in the co-operatives were francophone, originating in Quebec. However, a minority of households living in co-operatives were recent immigrants, and some co-operatives had primarily Latin-American and black members. In addition, funding for the program under the existing federal co-operative housing program provided for a mix of tenants paying low end of market rents and those paying on a geared-to-income basis. Thus, there was ethnic and income mix in the co-operatives and the neighbourhood.

A Tale of Two Redevelopments

The 1984 to 1993 Angus Shops redevelopment was only the first of two major transformations on the old CPR railway site. In the early 1990s, the long planning process for the development of the remaining 50 hectares (125 acres) of the Angus site began in earnest. It was a very different process than the earlier one, with the players’ roles and priorities having changed, new players making their voices heard, and a different economic and fiscal environment being in place. The resulting development (mostly done between 1998 and 2006) produced a very different outcome.

Some of the differences were as follows:

  • Community social organizations and the Université de Montréal, two players who had joined forces to push for an exclusively government-assisted housing development, did not play a significant role in the planning of the second phase. Neither did local merchants who, in the first phase, had fought against the inclusion of a commercial section for fear of competition. Instead, it was local residents who stepped up and argued strongly for a significant industrial and commercial component to provide employment opportunities to replace jobs lost through the closing of the Angus Shops.
  • Additionally, funding for social housing was scarce, as the timing of the development of the second phase coincided with the period of withdrawal of the federal government from making new funding commitments. Additionally, high cleanup costs were involved ($10 million, of which the provincial government provided $3.3 million) because environmental standards were considerably tighter than when the first phase was implemented.
  • The outcome was a development that did not have a focus on affordable housing but was instead 40 per cent market residential, 40 per cent industrial and 20 per cent commercial (and, unlike in the earlier redevelopment, included the retention of some Angus Shops heritage features).

The differences between the outcomes of the first and second phases illustrate how different dynamics, including the participation of community housing groups and local people in development decisions, can significantly affect how a city evolves in terms of the production of affordable housing.

In Montréal, a factor now influencing development is the municipal requirement under its Inclusion Strategy (introduced in 2005) that 30 per cent of new housing be affordable (15 per cent in the social and community housing category and another 15 per cent as affordable homeownership and rental housing developed by the private sector).

As of the beginning of 2013, it appeared that some social housing would be added to the mix in the area covered by the development of the second phase. It was expected that several hundred new residential units would be built, of which over one hundred would be social (non-profit and co-operative) units. All of these were in the process of being approved at that time.

Impact on the provision of affordable housing

The Angus project has provided 40 per cent of the housing units for low- and moderate-income households. Co-operatives and non-profit organizations used the federal section 95 program, which funded low- and moderate-income households, and a second federal program targeting exclusively low-income households.

Summary of impact on housing affordability

  • The Angus redevelopment project provided housing opportunities for close to 2,600 households, of which approximately 40 per cent were had low or moderate incomes, in a well-serviced, central location in Montréal, on a former industrial site.
  • The Angus project successfully redeveloped a contaminated industrial site no longer needed as rail yards. The non-profit corporation formed to own and sell the land to social and market housing developers ensured that the land was decontaminated.
  • The Angus project still provides affordable housing for workers employed in the core area of Montréal.
  • The housing and occupants were integrated into the surrounding neighbourhood, thereby using the existing infrastructure, schools and other community facilities.

Suitability for replication

The Angus project is one of several large-scale redevelopment projects across Canada that used similar funding programs to create housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income households on older, previously industrial, sites in older urban areas. Other examples include False Creek in Vancouver and the St. Lawrence project in Toronto.

There are many such opportunities in municipalities across Canada, as many industrial uses become redundant or move to other locations. The Angus project provides a model of how to conduct planning and consultation for a large-scale, mixed-income, ethnically diverse redevelopment project and how to ensure that the site is decontaminated. The type of social and income mix in other similar large-scale sites will depend upon funding that is available from various government levels for affordable housing as well as local municipal regulations and initiatives.

Related strategy

Sources of further information

  1. For additional information regarding the later Angus Shops redevelopment (1998-2006), see the CMHC Residential Intensification Case Studies at
  2. For more information on the earlier Angus Shops redevelopment, see the Plan directeur d’aménagement Société des terrains Angus, Arbour, D. & Associates, Montréal, 1984.
  3. For more information on the Angus Shops redevelopment, see La construction sociale d’un quartier en situation de mixité sociale : le cas du quartier Angus de Montréal, Catherine Eveillard, INRS Urbanisation, Montréal, 1994.
  4. For additional information on the earlier Angus Shops redevelopment, see Pour du logement social de bonne qualité au Québec : un exemple à réaliser, les Shops Angus, Pierre Morisset, Rosemont Housing Committee, Montréal, 1982.
  5. For additional information on the Angus Shops redevelopment, see Société des terrains Angus : Prévisions budgétaires, 1 janvier au 31 décembre 1993.

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