Filed under: griffintown, Little Burgundy, meetings, Sud-Ouest, Urbanism | Tags: david hanna, little burgundy coalition, meeting, pierre gauthier, projet griffintown
by Steph Troeth
Two university experts on urbanism, Pierre Gauthier of Concordia University and David Hanna of UQAM, spoke to members of the Little Burgundy Coalition meeting this morning on Projet Griffintown. The Subcommittee for Housing, Environment and Security also invited Griffintown residents and other interested parties to observe the proceedings.
Pierre Gauthier enlightened us with the history of street design in the ancient neighbourhoods of Montreal – in particular, the morphology of streets in Griffintown. David Hanna shared his understanding of how the Devimco plan had progressed from the initial commercial-heavy project to one that gives more weight to residential density. Both experts were open about their discomforts and skepticism with regards to the project. Pierre Gauthier periodically expressed his concerns that the footprints of the commercial blocks will be twice the size of those on Sainte-Catherine and the car-orientedness of the plans. Amongst other things, David Hanna discussed the implications of having the proposed tramway skirt the downtown area in a “U” from Peel down to Wellington then upwards to Berri-UQAM – why not then complete the loop and make the tramway a ring?
Discussion also ensued on the inappropriateness of the designated commercial area according to the current Devimco plan; the widening of Wellington would merely separate the southernmost complexes from the rest of the proposed development area. The contradiction in vision for this project is not lost on the members in attendance: here we have plans that are supposed to revitalise an important area of the island that is getting the same treatment and ideology as “downtown” Montreal, yet we are trying to entice suburbanites with cars.
What struck me today was that all the questions raised were not new. They are the same questions everyone is asking everywhere: what is the real reason for widening the roads, when there is no justified necessity? Why aren’t there any schools and spaces for families with children? Are the tall buildings justified? Is this project taken into a cohesive vision with neighbouring developments for the Bonaventure Freeway, the Canada Post and other surrounding projects? I asked David Hanna if the results of studies done to justify the population growth in that area that can support the commerce is available to the public, and he confirmed that this information is completely private: only the City has seen it. He went on to say the clues lie in the odd details of the plan: the drastic change in streets, the possibility of converting of Rue Ottawa as an entranceway for trucks, the tramway with a route that does not make sense.
David Hanna is pessimistic that the project could be stopped, and believed the best thing we could do is to change the face of the project. Our energies should be directed at ensuring this project is kept under very close watch, so that nothing goes out of hand.
One thing that has been nagging me constantly throughout our following of Projet Griffintown: where is the rest of Montreal? Putting aside for the moment, big-picture issues such as lack of vision for sustainable development, or serious consideration to fostering a real community in Griffintown – Montrealers seem to be sleeping through this issue, while those of us living in the Southwest Borough are being robbed of our rights as citizens when we blinked at the wrong time. One day, Montreal will wake up and find something resembling the size of Fairview Pointe-Claire right on its doorstep – what then? The fact that information is not readily available is almost as bad as the fact that Montreal citizens are not collectively demanding it as they should. The City has managed to slide this issue under our collective noses – a project that is envisioned to become a complete southern extension of downtown Montreal! So why isn’t the average Montrealer demanding to know what their taxes are going to? This is one serious case of “somebody else’s problem” that Montrealers will deeply regret if we don’t wake up and demand the truth – now.