Save Griffintown!

This is an archived site. by ajkandy
April 15, 2010, 5:09 pm
Filed under: griffintown

Hello readers, journalists and j-school students alike.

This blog is NOT current or being updated in any way. The authors no longer live in or close to Griffintown, and are no longer involved with the official Committee for the Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown (CSRG).

For more updated news or for requests for comments and interviews, we suggest you contact CSRG’s spokesperson Jeff Dungen via their website,

A.J. Kandy

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They’re baaaaack….. by ajkandy
February 27, 2010, 4:14 pm
Filed under: griffintown

Reader Roger sends a link to a article, in which it’s stated that a new, smaller Projet Griffintown, built solely below Wellington (abutting the train tracks) is set to go forward as early as this fall, presuming the plans are approved by the new administration. It’s said the plans may come under harder review because Projet Montreal’s Richard Bergeron is head of urbanism; so far, the report says that the project will be mostly residential and have only a few shops, not a full-blown shopping centre as previously planned. The controversial PPU which allowed for much higher building heights is still in effect, but the existing street grid will be preserved.

Read the full article here at Les Affaires.

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Les Bassins project moving forward by ajkandy
August 21, 2009, 5:02 pm
Filed under: griffintown

When we last heard from the project in May 2009, the OCPM had issued some recommendations based on the public consultation process, including alterations to the design plan. Today, Canada Lands Corporation announced that the City of Montreal intends to vote to approve the revised project next week.

Instead of four open basins (one of which was intended to be a kind of open-air pool, if I recall correctly) only two will be incorporated; these are linked together to form a loop that runs around the easternmost buildings. with three 20-storey towers.

The westernmost basins will be ceded to the City of Montreal, to become two continuous green spaces that run north-south between Ottawa and the public park alongside the Lachine Canal, one of which will be an “aire de jeux” – most likely a soccer/football field – and one partly an artificial reed-bed wetland that processes rainwater (and possibly, sewage?), reducing the new neighborhood’s impact on the existing infrastructure. Overall, the project is aiming for LEED-ND status, with green roofs to manage rainwater and reduce heating/cooling costs.

The percentage of space given over to mixed residential-commercial space seems to have increased; there seems to be a strong tilt towards creating artist workshop spaces and galleries in the area (expanding on Judith Bauer’s idea of a “cultural corridor”). They ask to hold architectural design contests for the proposed buildings; I’m hoping we don’t end up with starchitectural nightmares or East Bloc prison chic, but something that harmonizes well with its red-brick, turn-of-the-century neighbours.

What’s left to do is some consulting with the South-West Borough to ensure that the higher towers don’t have too bad an impact on sunlight and wind at ground level. I have to say that I was initially skeptical, but overall, it looks like a very good project, and an example of how public consultation ought to be done in this city.

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Stasis by ajkandy
July 4, 2009, 2:47 am
Filed under: griffintown | Tags: , ,

Readers, thanks for supporting the movement to keep Griffintown’s fate in the hands of its citizens. At the moment it appears that Devimco’s plans have gone on hold, but the 1500 Ottawa (Canada Post) site development bears further watching. There’s only so many hours in the day I can devote to this project, and by this time next year I may no longer even live in this neighborhood. I’ll be watching from a distance, but I probably won’t be as closely involved from now on — barring any truly boneheaded plans, that is. In the meantime, I urge you to stay involved with the official Committee for the Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown, now located at their spiffy new site,


AJ Kandy

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There Is Use Looking Back by ajkandy
May 16, 2009, 10:37 am
Filed under: griffintown

There Is Use Looking Back

My friend Alanah Heffez posted at about architecture firm Cardinal Hardy’s concept for the Seville Residences project, proposed for the north side of Sainte-Catherine Street near Atwater by the Bronfman-controlled Claridge Properties. It’s named after the former Seville Theatre, a purpose-built movie theatre from 1929 with additional street-front retail spaces; in the 1940s, it hosted live acts including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett. Reverting to a repertory movie house, the building slowly decayed over the 70s and 80s until it was shuttered as unsafe. Part of an outside wall collapsed in 1994; its historic interiors were gutted for a never-realized redevelopment project. Now, with the heritage façade deemed unpreservable, it’s set to be demolished.

According to the Cardinal Hardy plan, the theatre would be recalled as a visual echo in the new building…as a symbolic corner of yellow brick.

The SpacingMontreal article raises the question of façadism —  the process of integrating heritage façades, typically the only portion of a building protected by a heritage designation, into new construction. She compares it to the retro-revival quest for authenticity among urban hipsters. I’m not sure I agree with that particular premise, because today’s architects seem to incorporate heritage elements only grudgingly, or when forced to by heritage preservation laws.

Occasionally, the results can be quite good, like the World Trade Centre in Old Montreal, which cleverly recycled an alleyway into a soaring atrium, used classical details inside, and largely matched new interiors to old exteriors. Sadly, the norm seems to be things like the mismatched 3-floor / 5-floor  chimera of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (with those infuriating, hobbling stairs); bluntly unfinished-looking black cinderblock boxes like the Hotel Opus, divorced from its Art Nouveau front on St-Laurent; and the unimaginative incorporation of Edwardian white-tile apartments to the tutti-frutti cubes of the Webster Library at Concordia. In all three cases, the architects paid no attention to the scale, rhythm, textures, or idioms of the preserved heritage elements.

No-one can really argue that the rejuvenation of this strip of Sainte Catherine Street isn’t vital to boosting downtown, nor that the creation of more rental apartments will help ease pressure on a market that has seen too many properties converted to condos. What I’m more skeptical about is what they’re planning to build on that block — if it’s anything like the mockup shown in the SpacingMontreal post, it’s yet another bland, postmodern set of cereal boxes with ‘interesting’ window lines. This, to be sited next to the clownish spectacle of the AMC Forum, does not bode well.

Does a corner of yellow brick do the memory of a minor architectural gem any service? The Seville, which my parents used to attend frequently during its years as a repertory cinema, was a place which inspired attention and imagination. I’m worried that what’s planned will induce a state of torpor instead. If the city really wants to honor the memories of M. Cajetan Dufort (architect) and Emmanuel Briffa (interiors), why couldn’t they insist that whatever gets built must be both future-focused, yet respectful of the neighborhood’s pre-war (as they say in NYC) architectural heritage? In short, why not build a 1929-esque building that’s up to LEED standards?

There is absolutely nothing on a technological level preventing today’s architects and builders from doing just that. I worry, however, that they’ve lost touch with basic architectural vocabulary. For instance,the new condo building that went up on the site of the old Unitarian church on Sherbrooke Street mimics the forms of its neighbors, but its proportions are all slightly off. The entrance portico seems like a Canadian Tire version of neoclassical; like nearly all new buildings, the windowsills (and hence, the implied thickness of the walls) are a bit too shallow; it appears to be clad in white styrofoam and tack-on MDF crown molding, as opposed to limestone and brick. Overall it’s a lot better than we might have expected — thank the gods it’s not another Port Royal — and it’s a bit of a novelty to see old forms pop up downtown again, but I can’t help wishing they had paid a little more attention to detail; that it had more of the sense of permanence as the Acadia or the Linton.

Whatever gets built on Sainte-Catherine Street, our main artery, ought to really feel of Montreal — new, yet familiar — and drawing on its neighbors for inspiration would be a welcome change.

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City lifts expropriation orders on 27 properties in Griffintown by ajkandy
February 25, 2009, 11:30 am
Filed under: griffintown

According to the Metro newspaper, the City of Montreal is lifting its expropriation orders on properties in Griffintown not already directly owned by developer Devimco, who say they will be proceeding with a new, downscaled residential project below Wellington.

As far as I’ve been given to understand, the re-zoning to mixed use is still valid, so individual property owners should be free to sell or redevelop their own lands as they see fit.

(Thanks to SG reader Elizabeth for the news tip.)

News Update: Downsized Projet Griffintown to Proceed by ajkandy
February 18, 2009, 2:26 pm
Filed under: city council, developers, Devimco, economics, griffintown, news, press conference

Devimco’s Projet Griffintown will proceed in a greatly reduced and modified fashion, say spokespeople for the developer and the City of Montreal. According to information released at recent press events, a downsized Projet Griffintown will be built on approximately 30% of the originally planned surface area, starting in 2010, in stages.

The new project will abandon the high-profile shopping centre to focus on canalside residential and office developments, to be built on land already owned by Devimco south of Wellington Street. It’s not entirely clear, but it does appear that Devimco will release its options to purchase / expropriate land north of Wellington, which has land and property owners upset that their ability to sign new leases or develop their own properties was frozen by the city, with little to no compensation.

Linda Gyulai, reporting in The Gazette:

“The economic situation is difficult, and despite this we’re announcing we’re going ahead with our project,” Devimco spokesman André Bouthillier, said. “There aren’t many other developers announcing good news these days.”

Devimco will invest at least $300 million in the first phase of the project, beginning in 2010, he said. Meanwhile, Mayor Gérald Tremblay’s administration held a hastily organized news conference at city hall to deny the project has sunk.

“There’s no real change,” said city executive committee member Luis Miranda, who is responsible for major development projects. “The Griffintown project for us is not closed. It’s not a file we’re abandoning.”

Meanwhile, Benoit Labonté, opposition city councillor and borough mayor of Ville-Marie, blasted the Tremblay administration for its lack of long-term economic vision, and its willingness to put all its eggs in the baskets of real-estate megaprojects, in a press release:

“Alors que l’horizon économique s’assombrit, l’administration Tremblay demeure encore une fois impuissante à agir avec fermeté et audace, afin de préserver le développement de l’économie montréalaise, comme elle a été impuissante à la faire progresser au cours des sept dernières années”, a exprimé le maire Labonté. “Il est vrai que les conditions économiques actuelles rendent le développement de tels projets plus difficile. Cependant, une administration responsable, possédant un minimum de vision, aurait, depuis des mois, mis en place une stratégie de développement pouvant répondre efficacement à l’adversité et ne se serait pas uniquement fié aux grands projets immobiliers ou commerciaux”, a déclaré le chef de l’Opposition officielle.

More news and links, including some reaction from property owners:

Le Devoir: Un autre clou dans le cerceuil…
Journal de Montreal: Des propriétaires excédés
Journal de Montreal: Le mégaprojet se dégonfle
La Presse: Le projet Griffintown se fera par étapes
Radio-Canada: Griffintown: Comme un peau de chagrin

Devimco’s press release in French and English.

Feb 10th Panel Discussion: The New Griffintown by ajkandy
February 2, 2009, 11:39 am
Filed under: griffintown | Tags: , , , , , ,

The School of Community and Public Affairs at Concordia University is presenting a panel discussion/debate on The New Griffintown.

Panelists listed are:

Claude Beaulac, Executive Director of the Ordre des Urbanistes du Québec
Pierre Richard, Co-president, Regroupement Économique et Social du Sud-Ouest (RESO)
Michel Leblanc, President and Executive Director, Chamber of Commerce of Montréal
Grace Barrasso, Consultant and specialist in sustainable development, Committee for the Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown (

Moderator: Madeleine Poulin, Journalist, Radio-Canada

Tuesday, February 10th 2009
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Samuel Bronfman Building, 1590 Dr. Penfield ave. (Corner Côte-des-Neiges)

For more info please contact:
(514) 848-2424; ext. 2575

The Smart Growth Manifesto by ajkandy
February 2, 2009, 11:11 am
Filed under: griffintown | Tags: , , , ,

Umair Haque talks about the end of dumb growth, and the beginning of something different at

(h/t to Patrick.)

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Is suburban sprawl just “a personal choice?” by ajkandy
January 14, 2009, 11:29 am
Filed under: griffintown

Rima Elkouri writes in La Presse about demographic trends producing some paradoxical changes in the makeup of Montreal, namely, a multilingual, immigrant society with a common public language, French (well, wasn’t that the point of all the language laws, after all?)

One line strikes me as rather willfully ignorant, however:

Les tendances dominantes sont le déficit de naissance chez les francophones, l’étalement urbain et l’arrivée d’une proportion importante d’immigrants non francophones. Or, il est très difficile de faire bouger ces tendances. […] Contrer l’étalement urbain? Pas évident d’aller à l’encontre du choix personnel d’un nombre croissant de familles qui vont s’établir en banlieue.

Is suburban sprawl really a personal choice? I would say that it is in reality a lack of choice — it is what has been made available on the market by speculators and developers, to the exclusion of all else. It is also the result of provincial policy decisions that favour automobile use over investment in public transit (highway 30), municipal policy decisions that delay or sideline walkable, transit-centric, denser urban neighborhoods with good portions of affordable housing. It is also the result of banks, private and public investment groups putting all their eggs into the production-homebuilding industry.

Maybe people have been sold on the idea of suburbia as the dream where you have all the lebensraum you need, but when you think about it, suburbia is a lifestyle choice that has been politically wedged into our society, that drains the main economic engine (Montreal) of money in order to sustain itself. If it continues, Montreal’s critical infrastructure will continue to degrade, but ultimately, if Montreal goes, so go the suburbs that depend upon it vampirically.