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Visiting Boulevard Maisonneuve, Gatineau, Quebec: Planning a Wide, Gracious and Green Road Artery for a New Downtown

Updated on February 26, 2020
Flag of Quebec
Flag of Quebec | Source
Rows of rectangle lamps illuminate Maisonneuve Boulevard, Gatineau at night. Boulevard Maisonneuve is an important arterial in the heart of Downtown Gatineau, Quebec.
Rows of rectangle lamps illuminate Maisonneuve Boulevard, Gatineau at night. Boulevard Maisonneuve is an important arterial in the heart of Downtown Gatineau, Quebec. | Source
Boulevard Maisonneuve, Gatineau
Boulevard Maisonneuve, Gatineau | Source
Rows of rectangle lamps illuminate Maisonneuve Boulevard, Gatineau at night. Boulevard Maisonneuve is an important arterial in the heart of Downtown Gatineau, Quebec.
Rows of rectangle lamps illuminate Maisonneuve Boulevard, Gatineau at night. Boulevard Maisonneuve is an important arterial in the heart of Downtown Gatineau, Quebec. | Source

A wide and gracious homecoming to a dynamic Downtown in Quebec's fourth city...

The fortunes of the former Ville de Hull / City of Hull, Quebec were since the 19th century bound up with those of Ottawa, across the Rivière des Outaouais / Ottawa River. While 60 - 70 years ago Hull was very much the junior suburb of the conurbation, yet, partly as a result of definite urban planning decisions made several decades ago in the development of Hull — now referred to as Gatineau — has flourished to the extent of having become a partner in the Région de la capitale nationale / National Capital Region (1).

At Boulevard Maisonneuve, Gatineau, I am at least subliminally reminded of historic urban developments such as those seen at Toulouse, France at the Allées Jean-Jaurès and — indeed, though on a rather different scale — the work of Haussmann in Paris.

What was a small town's residential core was to a significant extent swept away to create a wide — even gracious — avenue befitting a greatly expanding Downtown area, itself enhanced by the development of Place-du-Portage and Place-du-Centre (see photo immediately above), with their massively developed Federal offices.

Indeed, Gatineau gives itself — not without reason - the moniker 'ville verte par excellence', for the amount of tree planting that the City has sponsored (2) and evidence of this is seen strongly at Boulevard Maisonneuve.

The Boulevard links Pont du Portage / Portage Bridge with Autoroutes 5 and 50 and Boulevard Fournier.

The Boulevard's name? Since Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve (1612-1676) was the founder of what became Canada's largest city: Montreal, then the laying down of a major Downtown road artery in what is now the Secteur de Hull / Hull Sector, in the Ville de Gatineau / City of Gatineau evidently called for commemoration of a personality which implied promise for future urban development.

There is a sense in which the vision for urban development at Hull a few decades ago has already been realized: within Quebec, Gatineau is the fourth largest city (after Montreal, Laval and Ville de Québec / Quebec City); and within Canada, the Ottawa/Gatineau conurbation is the sixth largest (after Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton).

The naming of Boulevard Maisonneuve indeed has a certain resonance here at Gatineau.

...or a deeper — and more brutally far-reaching — significance?

But looking beyond to some possible further significance to the way in which grand urban planning is exemplified at Boulevard Maisonneuve and the Federal complex at Downtown Gatineau, one can ask these questions:

Is Boulevard Maisonneuve suggestive of a gracious homecoming in a vibrant partner city within the Région de la capitale nationale / National Capital Region?

Or — since without the Gatineau area's mainly Federalist votes in the hotly and narrowly contested Quebec Referendum in 1995, Quebec would now already be independent — contrived urban planning which became an historic barrier to a Québecois national homecoming?

Another, more brutal way of posing the second question would be: Is Canada worth preserving?

There are no easy answers here; and these simple hubpages do not purport to foist 'solutions' on the places which are their subjects; but frankly the purpose here once again is simply a little attempt to describe and perhaps to ask questions about a locality's perennial riddle.

February 26, 2020

Notes

(1) French architect and urban planner Jacques Gréber (1882-1962) — for whom Gatineau's Boulevard Gréber is named — was a highly significant figure in the development of what became the Région de la capitale nationale / National Capital Region. (See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greber_Plan )

(2) See also (in French): https://www.gatineau.ca/docs/guichet_municipal/arbres/resume_plan_gestion_arbres_boises.fr-CA.pdf

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

 Postcard of "Main Street" in Hull, Quebec, Canada, showing the court house. Circa 1908
Postcard of "Main Street" in Hull, Quebec, Canada, showing the court house. Circa 1908 | Source
Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve
Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve | Source

Also worth seeing

In Gatineau itself, the Musée canadien des civilisations / Canadian Museum of Civilization is Canada's most visited museum. Gatineau's Masion du citoyen / Citizen's House has a noted art gallery and the Hall des nations / Hall of the Nations containing valuable cultural artifacts from around the world. Parc de la Gatineau / Gatineau Park has exceptional recreational and scenic possibilities.

In Ottawa (distance: 2 kilometres from Downtown, Gatineau) possesses cultural treasures, structures of architectural excellence and noted museums which are too numerous to mention properly here; but a few of these include Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall, the Chateau Laurier, Laurier House, the Rideau Canal, and the Bank of Canada's Currency Museum.

...

How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa, where car rental is available. However, travellers may prefer to use OC Transpo public transit for travel within Ottawa / Gatineau. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

Map location of Gatineau, in Quebec
Map location of Gatineau, in Quebec | Source

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