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CDPQ Infra pledges to cultivate fallow land at REM metro station

CDPQ has created an agricultural land trust to form a metropolitan agricultural park near the station in order to limit urban sprawl by increasing the area of cultivated land by 6 percent.

The groups behind the planned $6 billion Réseau électrique métropolitain (REM) in Québec, Canada have announced an agreement to create an adjacent agricultural park at the planned South Shore station in Longueuil.

CDPQ Infra, the group heading the project, said in a statement this week that it has created an agricultural land trust to form a metropolitan agricultural park near the station in order to limit urban sprawl by increasing the area of cultivated land by 6 percent.

The announcement follows a January review from the city’s environmental protection agency, the BAPE (Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement), which claimed the South Shore station’s proposed location on agricultural land was “not justified.”

Following the BAPE review, CDPQ had countered that the proposed use of approximately 30 hectares for the South Shore station represented just 0.3 percent of the surrounding agricultural land and that the targeted land had not been cultivated for more than 10 years. The latest agreement goes several steps further, illustrating the delicate balance CDPQ and other developers must strike when making the case for urbanization.

“Following the required government authorization for the South Shore terminal station to be built on agricultural land, this trust will ensure that the acquired land is cultivated,” according to the statement. “This trust will therefore protect the acquired land and ensure its long-term agricultural focus. It will serve as an innovative tool for conserving and enhancing South Shore agricultural land.”

CDPQ, a subsidiary of La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, went on to describe how it would team with its partners — including the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec (UPA) and the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) —  to further prevent urban sprawl.

“The CMM will work with CDPQ Infra and the UPA to agree on a plan to implement a metropolitan agricultural park… whose objective is to increase the area of cultivated land by 6 percent,” the statement read. “The land trust could also encourage the use of metropolitan woodlands around the terminal, by becoming a recreational-tourism destination (pedestrian links, walking trails) easily accessible through the REM.”

The November the REM project entailed the construction of 27 stations, while the addition of three new ones brought the total project cost to $5.9 billion, bringing CDPQ’s commitment to $3.1 billion.

La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec is a long-term institutional investor that manages funds primarily for public and parapublic pension and insurance plans, investing in major financial markets, private equity, infrastructure and real estate. The firm did not respond to requests for additional comment.