In the Nov. 28 Gazette, business writer Peter Hadekel reiterated some of the Village Griffintown news, but also added this interesting tidbit from co-developer Jean-François Breton, discussing the Dix30 shopping centre:
In 2002, they acquired 9 million square feet of land at the junction of Highways 10 and 30, with the idea of building “something nicer” than the typical suburban mall.
“We decided to tour Europe and the U.S. to see what was being done there,” he recalled. “We had read that the trend in the U.S. was to develop a new type of project – a lifestyle centre in a suburban market.”
But the village-centre concept, featuring sidewalk access to retail shops rather than an enclosed mall, was an admitted gamble in Quebec, where the climate is a lot harsher than Georgia or North Carolina.
Would customers be prepared to walk outdoors in January?
Breton says Canadian retailers didn’t know the concept and needed some convincing.
“We rented some planes and toured projects with retailers,” including northern cities like Cleveland, Minneapolis and Chicago. “And we convinced them in the end.”
It’s too bad that Breton didn’t take them on a tour of any of the succesful New Urbanist mixed retail-residential developments, which would have been even nicer than Dix30 – in fact providing more vertical retail, residential and office space in the same amount of land — but more on that in another post. I’m interested that he seems to see “pedestrian shopping streets” as important — we haven’t seen any evidence of them in Village Griffintown so far, which is why we fear an enclosed box with blank street walls — but he then goes on to drop this very interesting tidbit:
Breton says while the company doesn’t currently control all the land it requires, it is “confident” it can reach a deal with remaining landowners.
“It’s a very different project,” he acknowledges. But Devimco has done a lot of homework, held regular meetings with community groups and made a number of changes to its plans, he said.
I’m sure Mr. Breton has done some homework — we’ll need more information before we can give them a D- or a B+. But regular meetings with community groups? When? Where? I think we who live in the neighborhood would have liked to know about them. I certainly got no invitation…It seems more that all these meetings happened behind closed doors, giving the impression that all these various groups’ concerns were bought off.
I think the residents of the area deserve a little more, don’t you?