Save Griffintown!


Public Consultation is tonight: 7pm at the ÉTS
February 21, 2008, 8:16 am
Filed under: griffintown | Tags: , ,

by Steph Troeth

The long-awaited first public consultation for Projet Griffintown begins tonight at 7pm, at L’École de technologie supérieure at the corner of Notre-Dame and Peel streets. Being present is a statement in itself — that you care about the future of Montréal.

CSR Griffintown has posted some background material and documents that might interest you. Otherwise, you will also find links to news articles in our archives.

Speaking of news: the free newspaper Métro in Montréal published an article on Griffintown just this Monday (Feb 18). I’ve tried in vain to hunt down an online archive. If you happen to find it, please leave us a comment. Thanks Patrick!

Hope to see you at the ÉTS tonight.

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Interviews and news

by Steph Troeth

The McGill Daily has published a series of stories on Griffintown in their Housing special issue:

Flavie Halais from The Link, Concordia’s independent newspaper, reported on the first meeting of the Committee for the Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown in her article “Taking Back Griffintown.

And just to emphasise that we have things to worry about, La Presse describes the new plans for development as a big business haven.

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Notes from the Little Burgundy Coalition subcommittee meeting

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.



Thoughts from Project Griffintown Public Meeting
January 24, 2008, 1:31 pm
Filed under: consultations, Devimco, ETS, griffintown | Tags: , , ,

By Stephanie Troeth

Around 100 people attended the Projet Griffintown public meeting with developers Devimco and their associates yesterday evening at the École de technologie supérieure – appropriately, just at the edge of the area in question.

This supposedly-public meeting was not very well advertised beforehand; we were only present by the effort of community organizers who’ve been meeting with citizen groups, our network of blogs, through email and word-of-mouth. The developers admitted this was their first experience with public consultation; it seems they didn’t quite grasp that a good old traditional public forum is a responsibility to citizens, not a favour. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, and to be honest, we were skeptical: How much more could Devimco tell us, that wasn’t buried under corporate NDA?

What was entirely refreshing about the public meeting was…the public itself. The meeting attendees came armed with information, perspective, insight and concerns. Comprising architects, artists and artisans, educators, community organizers, anti-poverty advocates, residents of Griffintown and its periphery, the audience was intelligent and relentless in demanding answers from Devimco.

We were heartened by the questions everyone asked: Why are there no schools? What about recreational space for families? Are the height of these buildings legal? What about the streetscape? Can we expect a diversity of commerce and business development?

Noisy, heavy trucks already diminish the quality of life on Notre-Dame; would this mega-project make it worse? Would there be coordination with the adjacent housing plan for the former Canada Post facility? What’s the percentage of affordable housing? This quartier is home to dozens of active artists – why weren’t they consulted, and where would they go? What context will be given to heritage buildings? How do we know this isn’t going to be another Dix30 shopping mall?

A major point of concern was the fact that Project Griffintown is going to take 10 years – long enough for market crashes, investor pullouts, and political issues to potentially scuttle the project or leave it half-built. We were assured that the investment was completely private, thereby protecting it from market flux. (There wasn’t time to ask: can we truly be assured of this when the United States is currently suffering from a housing crisis?)

The answers from Devimco and the meeting facilitators were generally positive. We see hope, a promise of true urban renewal that gives reasonable consideration to good street design and city life, with due diligence given to cultural and architectural heritage. Yet, the public left with a niggling sense of unease. This is one very fragile project that needs to be nurtured and cultivated with utmost care. Despite all the “right things one must do” (or in the tone of Devimco’s stance, “what the city told us to do”), we worry that the developers don’t understand the spirit of Griffintown, and that sincerity and soul must go into rebuilding this once vibrant neighbourhood. That it’s not the bricks and mortar and layout proportions that make a successful quartier, but an understanding that it is a legacy for generations of Montrealers to come.



Pecha Kucha Night #2 – The Aftermath
September 18, 2007, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Events, Live Presentations, Pecha Kucha

Tonight’s second edition of Pecha Kucha Montreal showcased a fascinating array of topics, from Jerome Pasquero’s discussion of the sense of touch in technology, to Maroussia Lévesque’s sobering presentation on her Passage Oublié interactive art project at Pearson Airport.

After rescuing AJ from a queue somewhere offstage, we kicked off version 1.0 of our presentation on Griffintown and the proposed plans to build a big-box mall near the edge of the canal. Though we were slightly nervous, we quickly found our rhythm; the audience nodded and laughed in all the right places. The reactions and comments afterwards were positive and encouraging, including my favourite —”You put the living fear of God into us!”

We owe much gratitude to the following friends and individuals for their help, support and willingness to let us poach their photos for our slides:

We’d also like to thank Zura for beta-testing our presentation, and most especially for the rosé and Di Saronno that propelled our weekend work sessions.

We’ll be linking to a video of tonight’s event as soon as we have it. In the meantime, we’ll be adapting our presentation into a longer and meatier format for the web, complete with narration (not unlike a sausage, if done by the BBC.)

Congratulations again to Boris and the entire Pecha Kucha team for a great lineup and an enlightening evening!