Densification: the example of the former convent of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family

Densification: the example of the former convent of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family

Densification: the example of the former convent of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family

A significant portion of the land of the former convent of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family was dug for the Humano District project.

The image is rather striking for Sherbrooke residents accustomed to admiring the majestic building that the Little Sisters of the Holy Family have lived in for nearly 90 years. A large portion of the land around rue Galt Ouest has literally been swallowed up by mechanical shovels, and construction is only just beginning.

This impressive amount of earth was removed to allow the construction of a first apartment building which will be attached to what was, not so long ago, the general house of the nuns. At the end of the project, 600 housing units will be available in the new construction, in addition to the 100 to 150 that will be in the former convent.

A large portion of the land in front of the convent has been excavated to allow the construction of an underground parking lot.

< p class="e-p">If the Humano District site will significantly transform the face of the sector, it will however contribute to densification and diversity. This orientation is increasingly popular with cities that want to curb urban sprawl and its negative impacts on the environment.

The Mayor of Sherbrooke, Évelyne Beaudin , also welcomes certain orientations chosen by the promoter of the former property of the nuns. We are lucky, because he has a very social vision and the heritage buildings that are there are preserved, she underlines.

While the building site bustles outside, I enter the convent that I had the chance to visit a long time ago, when the sisters were still actively carrying out their mission there. Even though they now live in a CHSLD built next door, you can still feel their presence when you wander through the wide and high corridors of the building, whose construction began in 1920.

In premises that are now used by some fifteen organizations such as Croquarium and Carrefour Accès Loisirs, original furniture has been preserved as is. From the solid wood doors to the woodwork, including the parquet, nothing has changed. Only sprinklers were added to meet fire protection standards.

Matthieu Cardinal shows us the premises of the Croquarium organization, which has not been modified except for the addition of a sprinkler system and a few brush strokes.

What's important is that they reuse the premises as they are, says Humano District Administrator Matthieu Cardinal. We do not arrive here by saying that we have to review everything and redo everything. If we think like that for our old buildings, we will end up abandoning them and destroying them. That's how you create affordability.

“If we start with the building and say to ourselves "it's a little too big, but we'll deal with it", that's where we avoid generating projects at staggering costs . »

— Matthieu Cardinal, Humano District project administrator

The Holy Family sisters have moved into a CHSLD right next to their former convent. “They can watch the children play. It's a way to break isolation,” points out the promoter of the Humano District project.

This is how community organizations, social economy businesses or cultural vocation can rent spaces at reasonable prices, according to him. An entire section has also been specially designed for the early childhood center (CPE) Friends of the globe. There, however, a complete upgrading was necessary to meet the requirements of the Ministry of the Family. Matthieu Cardinal also points out that the kindergarten outside overlooks the nuns' CHSLD. They can watch the children play. It's a way to break the isolation, he explains.

The CPE Les amis du globe has taken up residence in the former convent of the sisters.

Density offers several advantages, explains the& #x27;urban planner lecturer at the University of Sherbrooke and consultant to several municipalities in Quebec, Jean-François Vachon.

It can help reduce dependence on the automobile, reduce our infrastructure needs and ultimately improve the quality of life of citizens. However, certain aesthetic criteria must be taken into account, he specifies. If you don't really look at the architecture, the landscaping, you can easily find yourself in an environment where you will be surrounded by construction and outdoor concrete parking lots.

The architectural concern is also important for Matthieu Cardinal. Architecture is the first art, let's not forget that. The development of a territory is, in my eyes and without wanting to offend any professional order, a derivative of architecture. If we want to create living environments that are dense, but pleasant, [we have to worry about that]. The goal is to have an ability to build and develop high quality backgrounds and to occupy them for a long time.

Start of the list Photo album of 5 elements. Skip the list?The work of Humano District is only at the beginning.The nuns' former kitchen will become a huge culinary workshop.The developer wants art to be omnipresent in the building.Once the work is completed, apartments of different sizes will be rented in the former convent.The chapel is one of the jewels of the former convent.1/5The work of Humano District is only at the beginning.See the previous imageSee the next imageEnd of the list Photo album of 5 elements. Back to top of list?

Another essential aspect of successful densification, according to urban planner Jean-François Vachon, is to strategically identify the places where it is worthwhile. Does the place I have chosen have the potential to be a complete environment where people are going to be able to function without a car? We must promote density near places where there is already commercial life in order to consolidate it.

“ We can provide a better quality of life when densification helps support benefits that a low-density, sprawling living environment does not allow us to have. »

— Jean-François Vachon, urban planner and lecturer at the University of Sherbrooke

The quality of the chosen site is an essential step in the success of a real estate development, judge by elsewhere Matthieu Cardinal. If people don't want to [settle on the site we're developing], we can do the Taj Mahal if we want, it's going to be empty.

If the Humano project makes it possible to avoid urban sprawl and responds in this regard to the desires of the municipal administration, the mayor nevertheless regrets that the City has not acquired this major property. There was an opportunity to seize, she regrets. It's always easier to ensure that the development meets our needs and our vision when we are directly an actor, like an owner.

Jean-François Vachon also believes that cities must play a leading role in the development of the territory. They need to be able to say, “This is the city of tomorrow we wish we had. Here are the places we want to develop". It also means investing, sometimes: buying land, making land reserves, becoming partners, in some way, in projects that suit our vision.

100 to 150 housing units will be built in the former convent.

We want to do land-use planning, meet people's needs. Have parks, social housing, housing for families, etc. We want bike paths everywhere. We want to take care of our territory, but we don't have the means to do so, deplores Évelyne Beaudin, however.

The latter would like to have in hand the winning conditions of urban densification, which precisely makes it possible to concentrate services and vary uses. One of them is to be able to expropriate at a good price a property that has great potential either for its building or for its location. Expropriating is very expensive, she laments. We can try to buy, but if the seller does not want, it will not work.

Évelyne Beaudin therefore wants Quebec to give more legal means to cities, but also the financial margins necessary to have control of the territory and be able to better seize the opportunities that arise.

After visiting the sections of the convent where rental housing units will be set up, Matthieu Cardinal takes us to the magnificent chapel and its vast rood screen, where the nuns once lived. gathered to celebrate Mass.

The chapel could be used for cultural creation workshops.

The completely deserted place, which served as a classroom for the University of Sherbrooke during the pandemic, could eventually be devoted to culture. Rehearsal spaces as well as production workshops for video or cinema would be set up there. It is being studied, Matthieu Cardinal tells us.

From the sacristy, one can see from a window another annex building: the Maison Léonie-Paradis, the founder of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family. The Alzheimer Society of Estrie is studying the possibility of settling there, and even of setting up respite apartments there.

“At the end of the work, Humano District will become like a small village where residents will have access to a multitude of services without even having to go out, because everything will be interconnected. »

The line of conduct that must be addressed on a site like this is its requalification. Its occupation by the citizens of the city is what will ensure that we will succeed in creating interesting common living environments with high added value, he believes.