Underground City, Montreal

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RÉSO
px
LocationMontreal, Quebec, Canada
Opening date1962
No. of floors1
 
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RÉSO
px
LocationMontreal, Quebec, Canada
Opening date1962
No. of floors1

Montreal's Underground City (officially RÉSO or La Ville Souterraine in French) is the set of interconnected complexes (both above and below ground) in and around Downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is also known as the indoor city (ville intérieure) and is one of the largest underground complexes in the world.[1]

The lower floors of the Eaton Centre between the McGill and Peel metro stations

Not all portions of the indoor city (ville intérieure) are underground. The connections are considered tunnels architecturally and technically but are air conditioned and have lighting as good as any building's liveable space does. Many tunnels are large enough to have shops on both sides of the passage. With over 32 km (20 mi) of tunnels spread over more than 12 km2 (4.6 sq mi), connected areas include shopping malls, apartment buildings, hotels, condominiums, banks, offices, museums, universities, seven metro stations, two commuter train stations, a regional bus terminal and the Bell Centre amphitheatre and arena.[2] There are more than 120 exterior access points to the underground city. Each access point is an entry point to one of 60 residential or commercial complexes comprising 3.6 km2 (1.4 sq mi) of floor space, including 80% of all office space and 35% of all commercial space in downtown Montreal.[citation needed] In winter, some 500,000 people use the underground city every day.

Overview[edit]

In 2004, the downtown network of the underground city was rebranded and given the name RÉSO, which is a homophone of the French word réseau, or network. The "O" at the end of the word is the logo of the Montreal Metro. Schematic maps bearing the RÉSO logo are found throughout the network. The largest and best-known segment is located in the centre of downtown, delimited by the Peel and Place-des-Arts metro stations on the Green Line and the Lucien-L'Allier and Place-d'Armes stations on the Orange Line.

The underground city is promoted as an important tourist attraction by most Montreal travel guidebooks, and as an urban planning achievement it is impressive. For most Montrealers, however, it tends to be considered more as a large mall complex linking metro stations — they may not even know they are in it. Many Canadian cities have some kind of tunnel or skywalk system downtown to help people avoid the weather. Most parts of the Montreal underground city are open while the metro is in operation (5:30 AM to 1:00 AM), though some are closed outside of business hours. Maps of the underground city and the metro can be obtained free of charge from all metro stations, and the network of buildings is indicated on most maps of the downtown core.

History of the central segment[edit]

The vision for the underground city was originally that of urbanist Vincent Ponte, for whom a commemorative plaque was unveiled in November 2006 at Place Ville-Marie.[3] The first link of the underground city arose with the construction of the Place Ville-Marie office tower and underground shopping mall, built in 1962 to cover an unsightly pit of railway tracks north of the Central Station. A tunnel linked it to Central Station and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

Directional panels to buildings accessible through the underground city, in Bonaventure metro station

The advent of the Montreal metro in 1966 brought tunnels joining Bonaventure station to the Château Champlain hotel, the Place du Canada office tower, Place Bonaventure, Central Station, and Windsor Station, forming the core of the Underground City. Square-Victoria station connected to the Tour de la Bourse, Montreal's stock exchange building.

Adding to the development of the underground city was the Montreal Urban Community Transit Commission's policy of offering the aerial rights above metro station entrances for construction through emphyteutic leases, an advantageous way to acquire prime real estate. When the metro began running in 1966, ten buildings were already connected directly to metro stations; development would continue until only three free-standing station entrances (Square-Victoria, St-Laurent and Place-des-Arts) remained in the central segment.

In 1974, the Complexe Desjardins office tower complex was constructed, spurring the construction of a "second downtown" underground city segment between Place-des-Arts and Place-d'Armes station, via Place des Arts, Complexe Desjardins, the Complexe Guy Favreau federal government building, and the Palais des Congrès (convention centre).

Between 1984 and 1992, the underground city expanded, with the construction of three major linked shopping centres in the Peel and McGill metro station areas: Cours Mont-Royal, Place Montréal-Trust, and the Promenades Cathédrale (built underneath Christ Church Cathedral). McGill station was already linked with The Bay, Eaton's (now the Complexe Les Ailes), Centre Eaton, and two other office/mall complexes. Between 1984 and 1989, the underground city grew from 12 km (7 mi) of passages to almost 22 km (14 mi).

Mega-projects added to the size throughout the 1990s, including Le 1000 De La Gauchetière (the tallest building in Montreal), Le 1250 René-Lévesque, and the Montreal World Trade Centre. Although these buildings have only a secondary commercial sector, they use their connection to the underground city as a selling point for their office space. Also, the construction of a tunnel between Eaton Centre and Place Ville-Marie consolidated the two central halves of the underground city. The construction of the Bell (originally Molson) Centre connected Lucien-L'Allier metro station to the underground city, as well as replacing Windsor Station with the new Gare Lucien-L'Allier commuter train station.

The tunnel between the Centre CDP Capital and the Palais des Congrès. A display case sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Architecture holds a video artwork about the underground city.

Finally, in 2003, the complete redevelopment of the Quartier international de Montréal consolidated several segments of the central underground city with continuous pedestrian corridors. The construction of the ICAO headquarters joined Place Bonaventure to Square-Victoria station, which in turn was joined to the Palais des Congrès and Place-d'Armes station via the new Caisse de dépôt et de placement building and a tunnel under Place Jean-Paul Riopelle. Uniquely, the new tunnel sections in the Quartier International contain educational and artistic displays sponsored by major Montreal museums. As a result of this construction, one can now walk all the way across the centre of downtown, from the UQAM Sherbrooke Pavilion at the corner of Sainte Famille Street and Sherbrooke Street to the Lucien-L'Allier metro station just south-west of the Bell Centre, without going outside — a span of 1.7 km (1.1 mi) as the crow flies, or approximately 3 kilometres (2 mi) walking distance.

The central segment interconnects the following seven STM metro stations via indoor walkway. As the Berri-UQAM station which allows transfers between the Green, Orange and Yellow lines is two metro stops from the closest station in this segment, in many cases it is quicker to walk than to take the metro. The lists of connected facilities which follow are grouped by segment and nearest metro station.

Structural concerns, 2007 closure[edit]

On Friday, August 24, 2007, construction crews discovered a seven-meter-long fissure in the ceiling of an underground corridor linking the McGill station to The Bay store located under de Maisonneuve Boulevard, between Aylmer Street and Union Avenue.[4] The station, the Underground City shops, and above ground streets and buildings were closed to assess whether there was any risk of collapse of the structure. Service on the Métro Green Line was halted between Berri-UQAM and Lionel-Groulx stations until Sunday evening. According to a spokesperson for the Hudson's Bay Company, city workers may have caused the damage by hitting a nearby pillar.[5]

During the weekend, city workcrews worked non-stop to shore up the sagging slab of concrete, installing more than one thousand temporary metal supports.

On Monday, August 27, 2007, service was restored to the Green Line, and all streets but the block of de Maisonneuve boulevard between Union and Aylmer were reopened to traffic. The one block that was not open to traffic was open to pedestrians. All buildings reopened, including The Bay. Officials said that it would take months to fix the problem.[6][7][8] While inspecting the site, it was discovered that 2021 Union, the Parkade Montreal building, was in danger of having concrete side panels fall off. City engineers performed emergency repairs. A report later blamed the construction of a bike path for the damage.[9] Street traffic on De Maisonneuve resumed in March 2008.

Central segment[edit]

Peel[edit]

McGill[edit]

McGill Metro before renovations

Bonaventure[edit]

Halles de la gare, going from Gare centrale to Place Ville-Marie

Lucien-L'Allier[edit]

Square-Victoria[edit]

Square Victoria Metro entrance, featuring the Parisian metro style entrance which was restored in 2003

Place-d'Armes[edit]

Place-des-Arts[edit]

Skylight in Place des Arts corridor towards metro

Berri-UQAM segment[edit]

Berri-UQAM[edit]

The hub of the metro network located two metro stops east of Place-des-Arts at the eastern edge of downtown is the transfer point for changing between the Green, Orange and Yellow lines.

Guy-Concordia segment[edit]

Guy-Concordia segment

Guy-Concordia[edit]

Located one metro stop west of Peel, this station is at the center of the Sir George Williams campus of Concordia University.

Atwater segment[edit]

Atwater[edit]

One metro stop west of Guy-Concordia, this station is at the western edge of downtown and just inside the territory of Westmount.

Longueuil segment (off-island)[edit]

Longueuil–Université-de-Sherbrooke[edit]

Situated two metro stops south of Berri-UQAM, this station is a major hub for bus transportation on the south shore.

Other segments[edit]

Sherbrooke[edit]

Pie-IX[edit]

Jean-Talon[edit]

This station is the eastern transfer point between the Orange and Blue lines.

Édouard-Montpetit[edit]

Hotels[edit]

Special events[edit]

Every February, Art Souterrain presents a journey through the central segment of the Underground City during the Montreal Highlights Festival, showing contemporary artistic projects.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

11. Website dedicated to the underground city of Montreal : Underground Montreal Map

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°30′11″N 73°34′19″W / 45.503°N 73.572°W / 45.503; -73.572