Technopôle Angus breathes new life into rail yards

When Canadian Pacific shut down its giant Angus Shops railway maintenance centre in 1992, the move was declared the “last nail in the coffin of Montreal’s east-end,” by one of the city’s major daily newspapers.
After all, the site was home to one of Montreal’s biggest industries and Canada’s largest railway complex, with 68 buildings and 12,000 workers at its peak.
Flash forward to 2013 and the coffin has lots of life. Now dubbed the Technopôle Angus, the site in the Rosemont area, near the Olympic Stadium, has been reborn as a major employer with a number of commercial buildings and several more to come.
“Angus is really starting to become attractive,” says Christian Yaccarini, president and CEO of the non-profit Société de développement Angus (SDA), which over the years has acquired half of the 5 million sq. ft. site (2.5 million sq. ft.).
Residents wanted land devoted to jobs
Initially, CP wanted to build housing on the entire site, but agreed to transform just half the land into housing when neighbourhood groups argued it should be used for employment development. An agreement with CP led to a 10-year plan for the SDA to acquire half the site, which is now 100% SDA-owned.
About 45% of Technopôle Angus has been developed. There are now 12 buildings with 580,000 sq. ft. of rental space and 53 small-and medium-sized businesses employing 2,200 people.
A major shot in the arm came last month when Quebec’s order of nurses, the Ordre des infirmières et des infirmiers du Québec announced it is building its new head office at the site, vacating its current downtown headquarters.
Four-storey headquarters under construction
Construction has begun on the Ordre’s new four-storey 80,000 sq. ft. building (60,000 sq. ft. of office space and 20,000 sq. ft. of training facilities), which is slated for completion next summer.

It will be built to LEED- NC standards with such green features as a white roof, high-efficiency ventilation system for energy savings, green car parking with grass and bike parking. (Citing confidentiality reasons, Yaccarini would not divulge the building’s cost.)
Once completed, 155 people will work full-time in the space, which is 20,000 sq. ft. larger than the Ordre’s current offices. “It’s the first headquarters that’s moved to the site,” says Yaccarini. “It shows we’re starting to attract companies from downtown.” He notes that most of the site’s other businesses already had an east-end presence. “It’s a positive sign.”
Having the nurses on-site will also boost the Technopôle’s health care vocation. Already, a third of the workers on the site are in healthcare related fields, including medical clinics and bio-tech firms. Discussions are now underway with the CHUM (Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal) to set up cardiovascular, hypertension and diabetes clinics.
Jobs cross several sectors
Aside from healthcare, Technopôle jobs are primarily in the service, IT, multimedia, and social economy sectors.
The Technopôle has been concentrating on leasing space to Quebec-based SMEs, and not large corporations that can easily decide to leave and set up shop abroad. Explains Yaccarini: “When a business owner works on the site, it’s harder to leave for the Philippines. It creates a completely different dynamic.”
Yaccarini also hopes the Ecole des métiers d’arts – which teaches fine arts in everything from jewelry to textiles – will establish a presence on the site next year. Having the school would attract a younger clientele and boost night-time activity on the site. “One of our goals is that the site doesn’t shut down at 5 o’clock.”
About $120 million has so far been invested at the Technopôle, not including the amounts invested by on-site businesses.
Construction only part of the overall spending
The site has won several awards for its sustainability, waste management and environmental practices, and for measures encouraging workers and visitors to use bicycles. These include controlled-access and public bike parking spaces, showers, changing rooms and lockers for cycling employees and shared bicycles for the public.
Aside from Toronto’s Distillery District, there are few other former major industrial sites in North America that have been redeveloped in a fashion similar to the Technopôle, Yaccarini says. Other similar sites have almost entirely residential or shopping vocations.
He hopes the Technopôle Angus will be completed by 2020 when it will have about 4,000 employees. That number is much lower than what the Angus Shops once employed – but is much higher than it would have been had the site pursued an entirely residential vocation.

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