• John Jantak

Green option proposed for Ste. Anne’s water tower


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Ste. Anne’s council passed a resolution at the April 10 council meeting to study a proposal to turn its iconic water tower into an indoor greenhouse.

Turning the Ste. Anne de Bellevue water tower into an indoor greenhouse is being touted by Mayor Paola Hawa as a viable option to preserve the iconic historic landmark after questions were raised about its future during the council meeting on Monday, April 10.

That’s when council unanimously adopted a resolution that will allow them to consider whether it will be practical to apply for a subsidy from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) that would be used to defray the cost of the proposed project.

For Hawa, the greenhouse proposal is an exceptional concept that focuses on out-of-the-box thinking. “I’ve always thought that it would be really funky to turn that tower into a vertical farm,” said Hawa.

It was architect Sevag Pogharian’s suggestion that the city consider applying for a subsidy through the FCM that prompted council to consider the proposal as a feasible option, said Hawa, and stressed that his involvement is strictly voluntary. Pogharian’s architectural firm Montréal Zero specializes in net zero energy as well as autonomous or self-sufficient buildings and neighbourhoods.

Legacy buildings

“Municipalities are often left with legacy buildings and the water tower is a perfect example of where the structure used to serve a purpose but doesn’t anymore,” Pogharian told Your Local Journal. “It’s a perfectly fine structure. So what do you do with these buildings?

“In the case of the water tower, a greenhouse is a perfectly good new use for it,” added Pogharian. “It’s not a use that would have made any sense 30 years ago, but today it really does. We have a food system that has some deep flaws and using this structure to produce winter greens is a very sensible way of replacing what we would have otherwise imported from great distances. That’s the concept.”

Painting costs

The fate of the tower remains uncertain as council still hasn’t determined whether it should be demolished at a cost of $800,000 or the façade repainted for $400,000. “Whether it’s repainted by graffiti artists or whether a single colour is used, it will still cost $400,000. The main cost involves the scaffolding that’s needed around the tower, which will take up 50 per cent of the budget,” Hawa said.

Demolishing the tower would bring about its own challenges because it’s located in a residential area next to houses. It could also negatively impact traffic flow along Autoroute 20 adjacent to the tower, including the eastbound entrance to the autoroute from Ste. Anne’s, said Hawa.

While council still has to decide whether it will proceed with the subsidy application process, Hawa feels the greenhouse proposal is feasible and would protect a structure that is a major part of the city’s historic heritage, especially with the recent demolition of the hose tower that sat atop city hall. “If people had an emotional tie to the hose tower, it’s even more so with the water tower,” she said.

Possible grant

“There’s up to $1 million in subsidies available for a project that is innovative, deals with urban agriculture, and reduces greenhouse gasses. It’s about applying new technologies so why don’t we try to build a vertical farm with zero emissions? It’ll make the tower useful, the subsidies will help, and it’ll be an icon not only to the history of Ste. Anne’s, but because people will see it from afar, it’ll also be a beacon to innovation,” said Hawa.

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