Save Griffintown!

McGill’s Raphael Fischler: Village Griffintown too big, hurts downtown by ajkandy

Raphael Fischler writes in today’s Gazette:

This is no way to build cities, megaproject by megaproject. There is no reason, except for developers’ hubris, to develop such a huge swath of land in one swoop. This is not a railyard that is lying fallow; it is a working piece of the city. It is in bad shape and definitely needs upgrading. But that process must take place gradually, in medium-sized (or even small) increments that complete the area and complement each other, rather than in a large-scale project that obliterates what exists.

Fischler, a professor at McGill’s School of Urban Planning, suggests instead a new Plan d’urbanisme that doesn’t favour a single developer so strongly, that would forbid the consolidation of entire blocks (as the current design does), exclude the possibility of expropriations, move the proposed concert hall and international student housing to downtown, and sign developers to binding contracts that mandate mixed-use development.

He notes:

Disappointed and hurt by the loss of the Casino de Montréal- Cirque du Soleil project near Point St. Charles, Tremblay urges us not to let this project slip by. My guess is Montrealers won’t let good projects slip by – but they will fight bad ones.


What is amazing is that this article Fishler wrote is nowadays only accessible through the blogs! If you go to the Gazette website and type “Fischler”, or “Griffintown,” you won’t find it. Same with Google and Google News….no more mention of this article. However, all the other less in-depth articles on the subject are still in tact and available through all search engines. So, why censor this particular article? Seems someone is asking the right(wrong) questions….

Comment by TheWhatNow?

Well, it’s more a factor of’s paywall for subscriber-only content. It stays up online for about a day or so before disappearing from view. I wish they’d take the lead of the New York Times and make their content free — it’s useless in generating ad impressions online if no-one can see it, right?

Comment by ajkandy

Whats strange is that other articles (concerning the Griff) appearing in the Gazette dated November,2007 do in fact show up on the Google News earch engine and the Gazette archives search. It is odd that this Fischler article in particular has been wiped from the search engines, though it is still accessible with Google AS LONG as you know the author name and keyword griffintown. Otherwise, if you just type “griffintown”, you will find a couple dozen articles, some from the Gazette, all dated November 2007. So, why has this article disappeared from view after one day, while the others can still be viewed after over a week?

Comment by TheWhatNow?

Hmmm. I would put that down to really bad website architecture. Their archives probably aren’t as properly machine-readable (by search engine spiders) as they ought to be, and I’ve known some Gazette articles to sort of get lost in the machine somehow…off in some side folder or something.

Comment by ajkandy

I dont want to dwell on this, but it seems youre making excuses up for the Gazette that are not quite plausible considering that their November archives are machine-readable. But who knows, perhaps the excuses are legitimate. I dont want to begin assuming how the inner workings of function, lets just say the article got “lost somehow”, as we wait for it to reappear…. should I hold my breath?

Is there a way to contact the Gazette and obtain explanations for this retraction?

Comment by TheWhatNow?

I’m not trying to make up excuses for anybody — I just don’t see a case for conspiracy, more one of incompetence!

Comment by ajkandy

I agree, there is much incompetence at that newspaper. I hope they get their act together.

Comment by TheWhatNow?

After whining against a good plan, now some of you guys are into a conspiracy theory against your own Gazette. Although entertaining, you are also killing hope of credibility for a citizen group that actually believed what they are whining about.

Comment by BruB

BruB, It isn’t “some,” it’s just one guy. Don’t feed the troll, as they say.

And do you live in this neighborhood? If you’d, say, bought a 19th-century townhouse and spent precious time and money restoring it (with all the permits it requires, being a heritage building), etc., only to discover the city wants to plunk a Wal-Mart literally in your backyard — if not expropriate your house for demolition — wouldn’t you be a tad, well, concerned?

Nobody’s against developing Griffintown, but by all standards of judgement, it isn’t a good plan.

1. The citizens were not consulted, and the plan presented as a fait accompli.
2. There was no public debate over the form, scale and timeframe of development.
3. There is only the vaguest nod to heritage preservation, and if the plans are to be interpreted correctly, they want to move a former public washroom to turn it into a Griffintown Museum — hardly respectful.
4. The plan, and the acquisition of land by numbered companies, favours only a single developer, whose track record to date is a rather dismal suburban mall.
5. From an architectural and aesthetic point of view, the proposed buildings are average at best, cheap at worst.
6. From an urbanist perspective, until we are shown otherwise, we have to assume the retail component, aside from one “mixed use” street, will basically be an inward-facing shopping mall; with blank walls facing the other streets.
7. Knowing what we know now about future energy availability, are these buildings sustainable? Is the economic model behind them (drive-in shopping) sustainable? If not, then we could end up with a big white elephant.

Comment by ajkandy

In Montreal citizens have no input into projects. “Public consultations” are only held after all the development parties have tasted the trough and are poorly publicized and attended. Tremblay is hurt – he got his arse kicked over the Casino and Parc avenue, the guy has to be half crazy to just ram something through. And the guy is right, building a city mega project by mega project only creates more isolation between areas and everything becomes more or less the same. It’s a tried and true formula that has worked really well for every mega boring city on the planet.

Comment by neath

You’re right and I apologies.
As for my geographical situation. I grew up in Verdun, Was raised in St-henri, Griffintown, Pointe-St-charles. I jsut purchase a brand new building on Ontario St. in hoMa. I actually know the area we are talking about probably more than most people complaining about it.

Comment by BruB

No one is complaining about the project, just the lack of transparency. I hope this project goes through, but not without publicly asking and answering the big questions that Prof Fischler asks. I was surprised to see the article disappear, and am relieved that it has reemerged. Call it a conspiracy theory if you will, but ajkandy has educated me on how website architecture functions, and now I hope we can start talking about the Griff’s architecture openly and intelligently.

Comment by TheWhatNow?

I think our goal should be to make a perfect addition to Montreal. Not to simply maximize the tax revenues; make a large covered garden the jewel of our underground city. Have 1500 eco friendly units rather than 3860 units in an overfilled space. Maybe some of the Chinese planned city (Dongtan) concepts deserve consideration.

Comment by Toastedmaster

My problem is that these guys are suburban mall developers and from reading some of their press releases, their core objective is to build a mall. The right developer would be looking at Griffintown as a residential project above all else. Furthermore, the right developer would be looking to build with a goal to make the area look as authentic/original as possible. This history of this neighborhood is too important to this city. The architecture and overall aesthetic of the proposed buildings is reminiscent of bad 1950’s low cost housing projects.

Comment by Edward

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