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What’s been bothering many people (myself included) about the Village Griffintown project was the secrecy with which the project was developed; the project was presented pretty much as a fait accompli. Word on the street says they want to have the public consultation process wrapped up by April, so there’s a very small window of time for people to organize any sort of response.
There was a semi-publicized event months ago called “Les Dialogues du Griffintown,” but that was essentially a confab for invited architects, urban planning agencies and other professionals; the public wasn’t welcome.
Furthermore, I understand that it’s largely a private project and thus the choice of urban design agency wasn’t open to public tenders or a design competition, but I can’t help thinking that one would have helped the project immensely. A New Urbanist-style charrette would have been even better.
Virtually next door to Village Griffintown is the Quartier International de Montreal, an immensely successful, beautiful and well-planned urban redesign project that the public actually loves, by all accounts. This should be the standard for other projects in the area. I rather wish that the same design consortia had been retained for this project, rather than the team that rather inelegantly grafted a Loblaws onto the Parc Avenue metro stop and bandaged it with flowerbeds afterwards.
Forgive my jabs at the Gazette yesterday. I have to remember the sterling work of their investigative and city reporters, like William Marsden (whose Stupid To The Last Drop should be read by every Canadian) and of course Henry Aubin, who’s been watching the Griffintown proposal with a skeptical eye.
In this Gazette column, Aubin examines how two projects will inevitably encourage and increase car use (and thus, greenhouse gas emissions) in the city — the Notre-Dame East lane expansion, and the Village Griffintown’s big-box stores, which will depend on car traffic.
Today’s Gazette editorial comes out in favor of the Village Griffintown project, unsurprisingly. Sure, they threw in a couple of caveats regarding the tramway’s viability, but otherwise gave it the old rubber stamp.
The Gazette has unfailingly promoted suburban values over urban ones for some time now — given that 90% of its ads are from car dealerships, how could they see it otherwise? And aside from a few columnists, does anyone at the Gazette even live in the city anymore? (Gazette scribes, please feel free to weigh in here, in the comments.)
Well, I wrote them a letter, paraphrasing some things we wrote about yesterday, and some items which came out of last night’s Griffintown Museum Foundating meeting. Here it is for posterity:
Aerial view, Village Griffintown proposal on the Peel Basin.
Large map view showing usage notes for buildings. (click image to go to Flickr page with larger view).
Smaller map view with numbered points referring to these images. #3 is the large aerial view, top.
View corresponding to point #2 in the map, the so-called “Place de la Montagne”.
View corresponding to point #1 in the map, the corner of Ottawa street, incorporating an older heritage building.
Finally, the city of Montreal and Devimco have issued a press release with more details about the Village Griffintown project. On paper, it seems like a sensitive proposal; they’ve got Heritage Montreal involved, they claim to be respecting the heritage commission’s report on the area, and they want to ensure that it’s transit-friendly, with access via the proposed tramway line. Parking is to be underground, there are to be two hotels, and 3000 residences, many of which will be subsidized lower-cost housing. A renowned urban-design firm, Daniel Arbour & Associé, (warning: Flash) has been attached to the project — they did the reworking of Parc metro when the Loblaws was built there, among other projects.
No photos or renderings as of yet. I’ve called the PR firm who put out the release; Arbour & Associé declined to comment, and I’ve left a message with the city of Montreal’s Sud-ouest mairie. No public consultations have been announced yet.
On the plus side, it appears that blocks towards the eastern end of the project, including the Horse Palace and other older housing, has been designated with heritage status, according to Judith Gobeil, who’s part of the project to get a Griffintown Museum together on that site.
This is the Photoshopped image we created for our Pecha Kucha Night presentation on the Village Griffintown project, which also forms part of this blog’s header graphics. Based on an image of the actual Dix30 shopping centre, we added in elements of Old Montreal, the Atwater Market, Bonsecours Market and Complexe Guy-Favreau to create a typical Montreal retail street with apartments and offices above shops. It’s meant to suggest a development that is in keeping with the heritage of the area, providing increased retail / residential density, while retaining a pedestrian-friendly feel and “eyes on the street.”