Dozens of gas stations have closed in Montreal in recent years, and it’s unlikely to stop. For the metropolis, the stakes are high: Will these lands – often contaminated, but very well – be abandoned or redeveloped?
In the central districts of the metropolis, closures are taking place at a rapid pace.
“I would have had to spend $700,000 to replace the tanks. With electric cars and everything, it’s not worth it,” explained Michael Gambiris, who closed his gas station at the corner of Park and Van Horn after 37 years in business.
“In the next five or six years, most of the stations in town will be closed,” he continued. Mr. Gampiris said some people buy in to operate gas stations.
The numbers prove him right. According to Statistics Canada, between 2021 and 2023, the number of gas stations in Montreal will increase from 399 to 375. However, a methodological change that occurred last year makes comparisons difficult.
“Gas stations are all sites that have potential for real estate development,” explains Simon Boyer, head of a real estate brokerage firm specializing in land lenders. “Most of them decided to transform, so I think this trend will continue. »
And that might just be the tip of the iceberg.
I can confirm that there are many gas stations that would like to close and sell the land for development, but are unable to do so because the cost of decommissioning is too high.
Simon Boyer is the boss of a real estate brokerage firm specializing in land laundering
Mr. Boyer cited environmental regulations that now require rapid decommissioning after operations cease.
According to him, one “doesn’t have to go very far” from central neighborhoods to find gas stations that cost less than the costs of cramification.
“Build Your Own City”
The city of Montreal does not track gas stations on its territory, its communications department indicated.
This trend is of great interest to Robert Beaudry, who was elected head of urban planning on Valerie Plante’s executive committee. In his view, these territories represent both challenges and opportunities.
These are often very well located lands, but they are also very polluted lands. They want to develop these lands.
Robert Beaudry, Valerie Plante elected head of town planning on executive committee
Like vacant lots and surface parking lots, old gas stations represent an “opportunity to build a city.” Because of their often substantial size, these lands “make it possible to develop public infrastructure such as parks or promote real estate development”.
In the first scenario, Mr. Beaudry particularly cites the flood-prone Fleurs-de-Macadam park on Avenue du Mont-Royal, set on former gas pump land belonging to singer Jean-Pierre Ferland’s family.
But the city does not want (and cannot) acquire all these places. Hence his desire to support developers who want to acquire developers for social housing or other types of projects, he assured.
The goal: to prevent old service stations, sometimes contaminated, from remaining for many years. “It destroys the vibrancy of the street,” he said. “We have the tools: we’ve already taxed the vacant lot twice,” and the city wants to convince Quebec to allow the bill to rise further.
“We bought dozens of them”
One of these long-dormant sites is at the corner of rue Saint-Denis and avenue des Pins in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, where an Esso station closed a decade ago. After years of languishing, construction is underway: developer Mondave is building a building of 33 condos. The same company is also developing another plot of the same type at the corner of rue Sainte-Catherine and avenue Papineau.
“We’ve bought dozens of old gas stations” over the past 30 years, explains Mondev co-owner Michael Owen.
The entrepreneur’s placement of these spaces is often very neat, and their location at intersections often makes it possible to build higher and easier than other spaces according to urban planning rules.
And Mr Owen isn’t worried about the legacy of gas tanks, which often leak fuel beneath the ground’s surface for years.
“Gas stations owned by oil companies use them to pollute them before selling them,” he said. I am not used to being afraid for the sake of being afraid. A site that is properly demystified by experts and monitored by experts, engineers, I have no concerns. In any case, we will carry out our own checks. »