Montréal has evolved tremendously since the 1950s. However, the city’s transformation could have been even more significant had the city leaders fully executed their (exceptionally) ambitious plans. They wanted to prepare Montréal for the year 2000, when it was expected to have millions of inhabitants and to rank among the world’s greatest cities. This goal meant making great sacrifices that would affect the city’s cultural heritage and the social fabric of entire neighbourhoods.
To carry out its plan for a new university in the east end modelled after British and American universities, the city would have had to completely demolish all buildings located between Rachel Street, Pine Avenue, Saint Laurent Boulevard and Parc La Fontaine Avenue. La Fontaine Park and Mount Royal Park would have been connected with a huge concrete platform planted with greenery and Saint Denis Street would have been turned into a tunnel. But in the end, this very destructive university project was replaced by a less intrusive one: today’s UQAM campus.
In 1967, it was believed that Montréal could reach seven million inhabitants by the year 2000. To facilitate increased travel within the city, a metro system comprising nine lines and about 300 stations was designed. It would have reached as far as the airport and Nun’s Island.
Another proposal: replace Berri Street with a -major thoroughfare that would traverse the Plateau all the way up to the north end of the city. A vestige of this project can be seen today on a section of Berri between Saint Catherine Street and Roy.
The Metropolitan Highway came very close to having a twin: an elevated highway running along Saint Laurent Boulevard.
The large square formed by Papineau, De Lorimier, Ontario and Sherbrooke Streets could have been completely taken over by a huge interchange that would connect the Ville-Marie Expressway with Autoroute 19. The Ville-Marie was to be extended eastward over a significant part of the Hochelaga district and Autoroute 19 would have stretched across the city from the Papineau-Leblanc Bridge all the way to the Jacques Cartier Bridge. This north-south axis project was instead relocated toward Autoroute 25.
La Cité-Concordia was a redevelopment project planned for a large area east of McGill University. Numerous residences would have been demolished and replaced with eight towers and many other modern buildings. Due to major protests against this project, “only” 25 Victorian residences were torn down and a less aggressive version of the project—La Cité—was constructed.
L’allée de la Confédération was a project inspired by the new capital of Brazil, Brasília. This new area was intended to cover all train tracks between Central Station and the Port of Montréal, as well as the Lachine Canal. Little Brasília would have included a huge auditorium and high-rise office towers.
Former mayor Jean Drapeau made it clear on two occasions that he wanted to build a tower on Mount Royal, first in the early 1960s and once again in the 1980s. His goal was more than ambitious: the tower would be considered one of the Wonders of the World and would be used as a meeting point for all people on earth. This objective was revealed in the memoirs of Yvon Lamarre, former president of Montréal’s Executive Committee. The inclined version of the tower planned in the 1960s resembled the one that currently overlooks the Olympic Stadium, so maybe Mayor Drapeau did, at least partly, get what he wished for.