(11:35 a.m. EDT) -- They unpaved a parking lot and put up paradise. On June 11 in Quebec City, members of Parliament and local government, residents and passengers from Holland America's Maasdam joined in inaugurating Place des Canotiers, a new public park (formerly a parking lot) in front of the Ross Gaudrault Cruise Terminal. This is the first in what port and city officials promise to be continuing renovations and expansions to the Port of Quebec.
The $39 million (CAD) project is not only the city's way of "giving the [St. Lawrence] river back to Quebec residents," as Mayor of Quebec City, Regis Labeaume, said during the event, but to provide cruise passengers arriving in Quebec City with a much better first impression. "We were shy to see those cruises arrive and the first thing they see is a parking lot -- that was not Quebec," Mayor Labeaume told Cruise Critic in an interview. "Now you arrive, you see the garden there, and we call that Quebec City."
Daoust Lestage, the architecture firm behind the project, drew inspiration from the previous docks and quays of the old Port of Quebec, using lots of reclaimed wood and other natural materials. (The name Place des Canotiers means "Rowers' Place" and refers to a time when river crossings were made by canoe.) The firm used historical photographs to source ideas, "going back into time but emulating it in a very contemporary fashion," described architect Renee Daoust in an interview with Cruise Critic. Water jets and mist occasionally spray, which is meant to link the concepts of the park and the river.
Cruise passengers also will find ample young trees, an art installation, benches, restrooms and a bicycle path with bikes for rent, but very little shade.
To replace the parking spaces lost by removing the lot, a four-story indoor parking garage with 389 spaces is now located along the lefthand side of the park, masked by wood panels called the "artifact wall." Even the parking garage is a destination, as visitors can walk up a flight of stairs to reach an observation deck with a green space, a gorgeous view of the park and of the skyline including famed hotel Chateau Frontenac, and the perfect place to snap a shot directly in front of your cruise ship.
The City of Quebec plans on expanding the waterfront promenade for about 15 miles, starting from the Quebec Bridge, while the Port of Quebec looks to expand its facilities to accommodate the mega-ships of today. Wharf 30 currently has an investment of $30 million to begin phases of development and expansion as a mobile terminal. The plan, which is estimated to cost about $90 million (CAD), would increase capacity for the Port of Quebec to 400,000 passengers by 2025.
In addition, a new dock across the river in Levis was announced just last month.
The region of Canada/New England, best known for itineraries in the fall months, is looking to expand its cruise season throughout the summer. In July, Place des Canotiers will welcome tall ships for Canada's 150th anniversary, along with other events and festivities.
--By Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor