In 2018, suburban borough Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles redesigned the parking lot at the Rodrigue-Gilbert Arena to better manage urban heat islands and stormwater.
This parking lot upgrade is one of the borough’s revitalization goals. The intention of renovating this conventional infrastructure was to have a positive social and environmental impact. The project helped to greatly increase soil permeability, thereby improving stormwater management; it also made the area greener, optimized the use of parking spaces and created safer and user-friendly facilities for pedestrians and other non-motorized users. Also, the local population now has a new outdoor space for public pop-up events like a farmers’ market.
Understanding and Assessing Impacts
Decreasing soil permeability over the past few decades due to urban development has led to major issues regarding stormwater and surface runoff management that have been ongoing for several years, putting pressure on aging municipal infrastructures in the City of Montreal. This mineralization has also been known to contribute to urban heat islands that affect city dwellers’ health and quality of life. With climate change, these two phenomena may be exacerbated in the future due to more frequent periods of heavy rainfall, faster snowmelt in the spring and a greater number of heat waves. Scientific research has shown the usefulness of soil permeability and green infrastructures in countering the negative effects of conventional urban infrastructures. That is why Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles decided to follow the guiding principles established in the City of Montreal’s plans for biodiversity, green spaces and climate action once the parking lot at its local arena, the Gilbert-Rodrigue Arena, came to the end of its lifespan and needed to be renovated.
The parking lot is in the middle of a local hub that includes the Gilbert-Rodrigue Arena, the Daniel-Johnson secondary school, an elementary school, and a new youth centre that has a skate park. Therefore, in addition to the basic environmental considerations, there was a need to create a safe and user-friendly public space for a variety of users. Safety elements and promotion of active transportation therefore had to be included in designing the new look.
After establishing the general principles favouring a more positive social and environmental impact for this facility, the design of the new parking lot took place in accordance with the borough’s usual procedures for this type of construction project. Initial technical studies such as environmental characterization and geotechnical studies, as well as the usual three-phase design process, were carried out within the standard timeframe of approximately six months, with planning firm Rousseau-Lefebvre.
Renovation work on the parking lot was relatively uneventful and was carried out over approximately eight months. The work slowed down when a section of the ground proved to be contaminated, which is common in the central and eastern sectors of the Island of Montreal, due to many old industrial facilities. This slowdown did not affect the project schedule.
Outcomes and Monitoring Progress
The choices made in the design of the new parking lot allowed for the use of best practices regarding parking lot design, active transportation and green infrastructures. One of the most notable aspects of the new design is the reduction in the total number of parking spaces (down from 240 to 117) and the sharing of parking spots allotted to the Daniel-Johnson secondary school, which are generally not used much during the arena’s peak periods.
Since the work was completed, one section of the parking lot now has light-coloured draining pavement with a permeable seal, ensuring that 22% of the surface has a high solar reflectance, reducing the effects of urban heat islands. The middle section of the site was paved with underground and above-ground water retention systems. According to models, this should help to reduce the water released into the municipal network by 30%. The parking lot now has four spaces reserved for electric cars, each of which is equipped with a fast-charging station. Soil permeability was maximized by installing ground reinforcement mesh in the access area for maintenance purposes, along with three bioretention basins designed to capture stormwater and surface runoff.
Cyclist and pedestrian safety were increased by installing pedestrian priority crossings and safe pedestrian walkways that are universally accessible. Five information signs were installed in a new multi-use space to make users and passersby aware of the sustainable development elements incorporated into the new design. This space can be used for public activities and pop-up events such as a farmers’ market.
The parking area was significantly greenified by adding landscaped islands that will help to reduce the ambient temperature in the parking area thanks to large-growing trees. Making the space greener through bioretention basins, decorative touches and tree planting has helped to increase the site’s biodiversity by 90%, with a total of 47 new deciduous trees and 13 different species of coniferous trees. Three insect hotels were installed to shelter native pollinating insects. Finally, the new higher efficiency lighting system has helped to reduce electricity consumption by 52% and has made users feel safer, while fitting in with the local setting by having lampposts shaped like hockey sticks as a reminder of the arena’s function.
The efforts put into the redesign of the parking lot led to it being certified as an “eco-friendly parking lot” by Montreal’s regional environment council. This organization also provided a financial contribution once the work was completed because of the number of trees planted and the significant revegetation of the land.
The project has been fully completed since 2018. Given that the new parking lot was designed to need minimum maintenance (grass cutting, grass watering, decorative plants, etc.), no corrections or modifications are necessary.