The result of 35 years of reflection and work, the redevelopment of the shoreline has proven a major challenge for Quebec since the 1980s. The St. Lawrence River, which was long a preferred access ways to an entire continent, has gradually given way to the modern road network, with the result that the city has neglected the river and has seen the occupation of its banks dedicated to industrial and port operations
. Environmental organizations initiated a series of studies to document the situation. This was followed by reflections put forward by various regional organizations, including the Quebec Urban Community which adopted a development plan in 1985 identifying the banks of the River as territory of aesthetic and ecological interest which are associated with "tourism itineraries". Gradually, popular pressure became more and more insistent for a better balance between industrial and port activities with recreational use.
The idea of creating an integrated vision of the shoreline between the bridges and the port germinated within the Commission de la capitale nationale du Québec since its inception in 1995. Following the development of studies and plans in partnership with the bordering cities and the Quebec Transport Ministry, the Commission played a unifying role by initiating a number of public consultations with the population. This entire approach allowed it to confirm the Champlain Boulevard sector as the most anthropized one and the one with the greatest potential for appropriation by Quebecers. This led to the preparation of the management plan for the Promenade Samuel-De-Champlain made public in 2002. A section from the current Quai des Cageux to the Sillery shore was designated to become the first phase for completion.
The 400th anniversary of Quebec City in 2008 provided an ideal opportunity to carry out the first phase of a grand vision to give the River back to Quebecers. Based on the reflection of the Commission de la Capitale Nationale du Québec on urban development, the Government of Quebec chose to concentrate its legacy in Quebec City along the shoreline and to devote 70 million dollars to it. 2.5 km of shoreline landscape was revitalized following the historical traces and the original spirit of this part of the shoreline. This project was delivered as planned on June 24, 2008 and was immediately adopted by the public.
The first phase of the Promenade Samuel-De Champlain could not have seen the light of day by 2008 if action had not been taken by the Commission before the official announcement of the project in May 2005. To begin with, there was the vision of key people on the Commission who anticipated the development of the original concept of the project's phase 1, and proceeded with the purchase of the Irving Company properties; two decisive acts, the essential links in its realization.
This first landmark offers different spaces that occur along an immense cycle track and a pedestrian trail which the white concrete surface makes festive and very bright. The first concern of the designers was to inhibit the expressway system which crossed the land along its length; the second was to try to make this immense space comfortable by taking care of the notions of scale and balance, but also by focusing particular attention on the materials used and on the site's vegetation. Inspired by the spirits of the St. Lawrence and its landscapes, but also connected to the history of the site, the development is both poetic and resolutely contemporary.
As a result of its unique urban design, the project greatly contributes to the revitalization of the banks of the St. Lawrence in a context of quality and exemplarity. It is a veritable breath of life and prosperity for the City of Quebec and its surroundings. Since its inauguration, the Promenade Samuel-De Champlain has become one of the primary tourism destinations in the Capital with a success that is repeated from year to year, as demonstrated by the visitor attendance studies carried out in the late summers of 2013 and 2015. With approximately 3 million visits in 2015, the Promenade has reached a visitor attendance level that has exceeded expectations and a 100% satisfaction level with respondents
The Commission de la Capitale Nationale du Québec thus played its role brilliantly as instigator in the planning of the Capital's emblematic sites. Fulfilling its mission, it succeeded in demonstrating an enduring vision of the future. It succeeded in performing the essential actions to prepare the bases for the project and to be ready to meet the requirements of the Government of Quebec, which represented a management challenge in respect to budgets and timelines.
Building on the success of completion of the first milestone of an integrated shoreline vision, the Commission de la Capitale Nationale du Québec, together with Quebec Ministry of Transportation and the City of Quebec, continues the planning of phases 2 and 3. The renovation of Quebec along the River and the reconquest of its banks is undoubtedly a long-term planning process, but it has allowed Quebec to position itself as a more welcoming and green, memorable and inspiring Capital, revealing itself as the real gathering place for all Quebecers.