Save Griffintown!

Griffintown residents: Redevelopment yes, megaproject no by ajkandy
January 23, 2008, 1:01 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Chris Gobeil and Judith Bauer, who’ve lovingly restored their 19th century heritage townhouse on Ottawa Street (adjacent to the old Horse Palace) eloquently state their opposition to both the form and undemocratic process of the Village Griffintown megaproject. Their point is valid; if the city wants redevelopment, why not just rezone the area as mixed residential-commercial and let the market take care of things with a range of designs, infill buildings, etc?

Given the volatility of capital markets (long expected, as the US credit/housing bubble deflates), I think another white elephant is exactly what this city doesn’t need.



This is the first letter from a resident that I actually have to agree with. Her point of view is smart and articulated unlike some “just because…” letters I have read.

Comment by BruB

I also agree with Chris and Judith. As a resident of the Lowney lofts, with a view facing South towards the area in question, I’m now trying my best to inform myself properly in order to add (hopefully) significant suggestions and criticism.

Change is inevitable, but it would be a tragedy to throw away key elements of the history of the neighbourhood. There are many buildings which are still in use or could be “recycled”, similar to the Lowney, Redpath, etc. By allowing measured, responsible development which complements rather than obliterates these structures, it should be possible to rekindle the soul of the neighbourhood AND provide additional residential/commercial space to the (extended) downtown core.

I’ve explored just about every street with my dog over the past year, and there are plenty of fascinating buildings and signs of life that I was previously oblivious to! A single massive development would surely smother and overshadow that collection.

There are plenty of parking lots and vacant lots which provide fertile ground for a first wave of development…

Comment by nerdboy

One should take a look at the Devimcos’ frightening parking layout, covering almost the entire neighbourhood, including space underneath Peel, Shannon, Young and Smith streets, which seems like the REAL promoter’s development scheme (incidentally generating privatization of the public realm and demolition-“reconstruction” of buildings presently very properly occupied by dynamic businesses), ironically exactly like Quartier DIX30, where the only true and interesting piece of architecture – left out the pastiche dysneyland-like streets and façades – is the underground parking as well.

But who cares about trueness and architecture in this city ? Layers of history that give the meaning and the uniqueness of a specific place, – and, consequently, its specific attractiveness and economic value ?

Instead, some advocate for cheap jobs, cheap condos, a generic environment with no interest whatsoever. They call it economic development; it is a loss of value, a spoiling of public assets, a third-worldization of our city. Why can’t we insert new buildings and development within – and between – existing buildings, onto existing blocks, like, say, what they are doing in the Meat Packing District of New York ?

Smith Street (old Wellington) gives a magnificent view onto the old train bridge, giving the sense of the place in relation to the Lachine Canal ; instead of being enhanced, bordered with store fronts and properly restored, it will be closed off, replaced by truck docks and underground service access. The developer prefers to insert a winding “picturesque” commercial road cutting through existing blocks. How does this relate to or enhance the genius of this specific place ?

Shannon and Young streets provide alernative journey ways for the promeneur and magnificent dramatic views onto downtown towers and skyline; they’ll be closed off, giving way for privately owned and controlled indoor passageways leading to commercial malls.

The very fine grain of these unique, oldest Montreal urban grid, blocks and buildings will be lost for good. Pastiche displaced façades and buildings will make Montreal enter the new faked-urbanism era.

At least, iconic brutalist and modernist buildings and projects of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s – Complexe Desjardins, Habitations Jeanne-Mance, Maison Radio-Canada – were true to what they really were : a replacement of thriving lively and diverse neighbourhoods by bleak megastructures, a displacement of local activities and populations to the outskirts, and did not falsely pretend to recreate urban life or spirit.

50 years later, the urban scar left by the widening of Rene-Levesque (former Dorchester) boulevard and the demolition of adjacent buildings to make room for transportation is just starting to finally become properly lined up with buildings again. Guess what they want to do with Peel ? Enlarge it to make way for transportation – whether it be for a tramway, cars or a bike path doesn’t make a difference : buildings will still be torn down. Are they going to rebuild better – and quicker – than Centre-Sud, Faubourg Saint-Laurent, Faubourg Quebec ? Aren’t there enough vacant lots to be built, or underused buildings to be rehabilitated – even in prime locations like the Old Montreal, even in Griffintown – before tearing down and making tabula rasa of another entire neighbourhood ? How much public money – government subsidies, expropriations, infrastructure – will finance or support that private initiative ?

Devimco did a great job in talking and trying to convince as many groups and people they could. A much less convincing job in respecting Montreal history, culture, and Montrealers who just love and inhabit their city.

They are really proud of their project. They should think twice, and maybe ask for a second – and independant – professional advice.

I live less than a five minute walk from Griffintown. I have lived and invested downtown for 25 years now. Guess what ? Will this project go on, I’ll move to the suburbs.

Comment by Joseph Armand

Couldn’t agree more. Griffintown is such a unique part of Montreal and because of it’s heritage is perfect as a starting point to craft a neighborhood that is a destination in and of itself, irrespective of the downtown core/Ste Catherine street shopping district. You don’t compete with the suburbs by bringing the suburbs to the city. Downtown neighborhoods should be a showcase for many things: our history and architecture especially.

In Griffintown, the industrial bones of the neighborhood add to the character -a character that needs to be enhanced and not erased.

If the city re-zones accordingly, developers will take a look at the area. It is already happening with the Lowney lofts. Great neighborhoods, like great cities, happen organically.

I know that I have mentionned this in past posts, but, if anykind of mega development is to happen, at least the right architects and designers should be commissioned. I just wish that Montreal looked outside the Quebec box sometimes: we should be asking the best in the world. If we are a world class city we need to start acting like one. For all you out there, please check out the link below. Robert Stern did a masterplan for a project in The Netherlands very similar to Griffintown.

Comment by Edward

Too many people (some of you here) don’t even live there and have the “Not in my backyard syndrome” that’s why this letter makes sense, she’s not agaisn’t the project, actually, I think she’s happy with it. She doesn’t like the way it’s being handle and that’s a whole different story. let the people INSIDE speak. Not people that live 5 minutes away.

Comment by BruB

Griffintown’s future is both a local and a national issue, due to its cultural and historic relevance for all Montrealers, Quebecers and Canadians.

Comment by joseph armand


Griffintown should be important for Montrealers, even the ones that don’t even know where it is (like most West Islanders), but trust me, must canadians don’t really care about it.

Comment by BruB

(in luke skywalker voice) …I care!

Can we keep the sweeping generalizations down to a minimum, please? Just because people don’t live in the immediate area doesn’t make their opinion necessarily invalid.

Comment by ajkandy

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: