Save Griffintown!

News Update: Downsized Projet Griffintown to Proceed by ajkandy
February 18, 2009, 2:26 pm
Filed under: city council, developers, Devimco, economics, griffintown, news, press conference

Devimco’s Projet Griffintown will proceed in a greatly reduced and modified fashion, say spokespeople for the developer and the City of Montreal. According to information released at recent press events, a downsized Projet Griffintown will be built on approximately 30% of the originally planned surface area, starting in 2010, in stages.

The new project will abandon the high-profile shopping centre to focus on canalside residential and office developments, to be built on land already owned by Devimco south of Wellington Street. It’s not entirely clear, but it does appear that Devimco will release its options to purchase / expropriate land north of Wellington, which has land and property owners upset that their ability to sign new leases or develop their own properties was frozen by the city, with little to no compensation.

Linda Gyulai, reporting in The Gazette:

“The economic situation is difficult, and despite this we’re announcing we’re going ahead with our project,” Devimco spokesman André Bouthillier, said. “There aren’t many other developers announcing good news these days.”

Devimco will invest at least $300 million in the first phase of the project, beginning in 2010, he said. Meanwhile, Mayor Gérald Tremblay’s administration held a hastily organized news conference at city hall to deny the project has sunk.

“There’s no real change,” said city executive committee member Luis Miranda, who is responsible for major development projects. “The Griffintown project for us is not closed. It’s not a file we’re abandoning.”

Meanwhile, Benoit Labonté, opposition city councillor and borough mayor of Ville-Marie, blasted the Tremblay administration for its lack of long-term economic vision, and its willingness to put all its eggs in the baskets of real-estate megaprojects, in a press release:

“Alors que l’horizon économique s’assombrit, l’administration Tremblay demeure encore une fois impuissante à agir avec fermeté et audace, afin de préserver le développement de l’économie montréalaise, comme elle a été impuissante à la faire progresser au cours des sept dernières années”, a exprimé le maire Labonté. “Il est vrai que les conditions économiques actuelles rendent le développement de tels projets plus difficile. Cependant, une administration responsable, possédant un minimum de vision, aurait, depuis des mois, mis en place une stratégie de développement pouvant répondre efficacement à l’adversité et ne se serait pas uniquement fié aux grands projets immobiliers ou commerciaux”, a déclaré le chef de l’Opposition officielle.

More news and links, including some reaction from property owners:

Le Devoir: Un autre clou dans le cerceuil…
Journal de Montreal: Des propriétaires excédés
Journal de Montreal: Le mégaprojet se dégonfle
La Presse: Le projet Griffintown se fera par étapes
Radio-Canada: Griffintown: Comme un peau de chagrin

Devimco’s press release in French and English.

Canada Post Plant Project is: Les Bassins du Nouveau-Havre by ajkandy
November 12, 2008, 4:15 pm
Filed under: Events, griffintown, news

Officially launched today, the proposed project, put forth by Canada Lands Company and the Montreal Harbour Commission, gets an official name, “Les Bassins du Nouveau Havre,” and a spiffy blue website with a video overview of the proposed design. Most of the good stuff is in PDFs (typical, sigh). But the project looks decent and very interesting. The public can swing by the site (dates given in previous post) to check out the model and other materials.

Although the URL, “,” made one friend of mine think “Lesbassins? Lesbian assassins? Did they have this run by an English translator at all?”

Judging by the overview PDF (2 MB) which contains numerous egregiously bad typos and francisms, apparently they didn’t hire an English translator or copyeditor at all but just decided to wing it. (Governments! Corporations! Design firms and other agencies! I can do this for you. My rates are not expensive. Is it really worth it to look illiterate?)

Aubin: Montreal needs Drapeau-like vision to develop Blue Bonnets site by ajkandy
July 25, 2008, 1:27 pm
Filed under: Blue Bonnets, developers, news

Story here.

Glad to see Aubin’s picked up the end-of-cheap-oil mantra and is using that as the lens through which to examine the  various projects the city and the province are pushing forward — more car-centric developments and highways.

If we’re not going to get a Hammarby in Griffintown, maybe Blue Bonnets would be an ideal site for a carfree, zero-emissions, zero-waste residential development.

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Prince Charles comments on Griffintown by ajkandy
April 30, 2008, 1:33 pm
Filed under: griffintown, news, Urbanism | Tags:

Well, he’s actually talking about England, but every word of what he’s saying applies here. Read the entire speech after the break.

Many people believe, erroneously, that the only way to achieve environmental efficiencies in development is by building very tall buildings. Indeed, improving the average density of building in England is critical to achieving “location efficiency,” which reduces automobile use and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as minimizing land-take. But these efficiencies only begin to occur at 17 units to the hectare, when public transport becomes feasible, and begin to tail off at densities above 70 units to the hectare, according to a definitive research study from the United States which has recently been applied by my Foundation in a London project. This is because achieving environmental gains is a function of density, access to public transport and walkable, connected streets. Pedestrian street access becomes more difficult at higher density. Indeed, there is also a question about whether London’s overstressed public transport network can actually handle greater density at the centre. Creating visual pollution is not the answer to achieving greater efficiency. […]

The argument has been made that London must build tall buildings in order to protect its place as a global financial centre. […] I am not opposed to all tall buildings. My concern is that they should be considered in their context; in other words, they should be put where they fit properly. If new vertical cul-de-sacs are to be built, then it seems self-evident to me that they should stand together to establish a new skyline, and not compete with or confuse what is currently there – as has already happened to a depressing and disastrous extent. 

There is a very real and urgent risk looming over us that in the drive to make historic cities like London and Edinburgh “world cities” in the commercial sense, we simply make them more like every other city in the world and in so doing dishonour and discredit their status, character and local distinctiveness. In “A Vision of Britain,” I suggested that the impact of new buildings could be softened by an acceptance of the existing street rhythms and plot sizes and that the buildings in a city such as London, Edinburgh or even Bath or Ealing are the individual brushstrokes of a grand composition, which works because all the participants understood the basic rules and “grammar,” with harmony being the pleasing result. This lesson is, I believe, still as relevant today as it was in the Enlightenment, when builders sought to remake their cities to compete on a new stage. For the past sixty years or so we have been conducting an experiment in social and environmental engineering that has gone disastrously wrong.


(via Martin Laplante.)

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Welcome Gazette Readers! by ajkandy
April 19, 2008, 1:49 pm
Filed under: griffintown, news, recent news

New to the site? Here’s some links to past articles to give you some background and bring you up to date.

If you’re interested in joining and supporting the local citizens’ movement, check out the Committee for the Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown at

Phyllis Lambert and the Quebec Order of Architects call for a moratorium on Projet Griffintown, calling for it to be rethought and for proper city-wide public consultations to be held via the Office des consultations publiques de Montréal.

If you agree, maybe you should sign the petition.

Why The Swedes Are Right, And Claude Provencher Is Wrong. Background on two Swedish eco-friendly developments roughly the same size as Griffintown, which further proves the kind of thinking the Gazette article discussed. Also calls into question architect Provencher’s unquestioning support for the project, compared to much better-thought-out projects he’s worked on such as the Quartier International and condos at the east end of the Old Port. 

Forward-looking architects realize we are at the end of the cheap energy era, so we shouldn’t keep designing cities around cars.

McGill architecture professor Robert Mellin writes about the project he and his graduate students have worked on for the past year or so, envisioning a sustainable “eco-industrial” role for Griffintown and the Lachine Canal.

Architecture profs Pierre Gauthier and David Hanna addressed the Little Burgundy Coalition about the impact of the Griffintown project back in February.

Jean-Claude Marsan wrote a damning op-ed for La Presse on February 6th: Montreal deserves better.

How Devimco first presented the project at the ETS. Our notes on this.

City agencies worry that the Griffintown project will threaten Montreal’s UNESCO World Heritage City status.

McGill’s Raphael Fischler wrote in December that Projet Griffintown represented a potential commercial threat to downtown, and lamented its oversize nature.

Images from Devimco’s proposal. Note that they backtracked and said the architecture wasn’t final; this was to show approximate massing. If anything looks less like “Montreal,” it’s hard to say.

Our vision. We kicked off this blog as an extension of a presentation we gave at the SAT’s Pecha Kucha design show-and-tell night back in September 2007, and we Photoshopped Montreal-style buildings over Devimco’s horrible Dix-30 shopping centre to show that building real, livable streets isn’t that difficult.

Since then, we were treated to other wonderful presentations showing other visions of the project, such as Pro-Pointe’s eco-condo concepts, (PDF, 3MB) and urban planner Steven Peck’s comparison of modern Irish cities with Griffintown’s history. (PPT, 12MB). (Check out all the memoranda from citizens and groups here at the City of Montreal’s website.)

We’ve noted time and time again that you don’t need tall buildings to have density, as European cities show. And as Pointe St. Charles residents have demonstrated in their self-generated plans for the Alstom / CN rail yards, good urban design can come from the grassroots up.

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Phyllis Lambert & Experts Holding Press Conference on Griffintown Right Now by ajkandy
April 15, 2008, 10:45 am
Filed under: Committee for Sustainable Redevelopment, Events, griffintown, media, news

From PR Newswire — Today’s press conference involving the Committee for the Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown, Phyllis Lambert and several architecture and urban planning experts. Happening NOW.


Montreal, April 14, 2008 — Phyllis Lambert and Gérard Beaudet, well known for their articulate positions on the future of Montréal, will be speaking tomorrow at a press conference organized by the Committee for the Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown (CSRG).

Both experts will be voicing their opposition to the hasty public consultation process put in place by the Southwest Borough (Arrondissement du Sud-Ouest) to study the Special Planning Program (SPP) which could affect a major sector of Griffintown. Phyllis Lambert and Gérard Beaudet deplore the municipal authorities’ lack of vision and agree that the SPP should be referred to the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM).

Vicente Perez, from the Coalition de la Petite Bourgogne, will also be present and Christopher Gobeil, spokesperson for CSRG, will preside over the Press Conference. A number of representatives from the professional associations, among them André Bourassa, president of the Québec Order of Architectes, will be in attendance.

Date: Tuesday, April 15 2008, 11am

Place: Darling Foundry, 745 Ottawa Street, Montréal

For more detailed information, please write to or call (514) 875-7644.


The press release will be available on the CSRG website immediately following the press conference.


Phyllis Lambert to Mayor Tremblay: Proper consultation process needed for Griffintown by ajkandy
March 23, 2008, 12:03 pm
Filed under: blogosphere, Committee for Sustainable Redevelopment, news

Read about this and several other recent news headlines over at the official CSR Griffintown blog.

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Can the condo market absorb more supply? by ajkandy
March 23, 2008, 10:53 am
Filed under: economics, housing bubble, news

Interesting WSJ article, from the US bubble meltdown perspective:

The condominium market is about to get worse as many cities brace for a flood of new supply this year — the result of construction started at the height of the housing boom.

More than 4,000 new units will be completed in both Atlanta and Phoenix by the end of the year. Developers in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are readying nearly 10,000 total new units in a market already struggling with canyons of unsold condos. San Diego, another hard-hit region, will add 2,500 units, according to estimates provided by Reis Inc., a New York-based real-estate-research firm. […]

Regulators have been sounding the alarm for weeks about the exposure of small and mid-size banks to commercial real estate, which mostly means construction loans to developers of condos and single-family housing.

Lenders of all sizes have $42 billion of condominium debt on their books, according to Foresight Analytics. In just three months — between the third and fourth quarters of last year — the delinquency rate rose to 10% from 5.9%, says the Oakland, Calif., research firm.

When the US financial meltdown eventually affects Canada, we may find ourselves in the same situation. Anecdotally, real estate professionals we’ve talked to feel that there is already a glut of unsold condos on the market in Montreal, and that the next wave of demand (generation Y kids buying their first home) isn’t set to come for a few years yet. This gives more credence to Jean-Claude Marsan’s observation that there’s still plenty of room for commercial real estate and new residential construction in downtown proper, so to create a second downtown that may be subject to a financial collapse seems like a riskier proposition.

If the economy tanks and we go into a years-long depression before that, then I think people will be thinking more about staying home with Mom and Dad a while longer. The idea of converting McMansions into proper extended-family dwellings, or changing zoning laws to permit outbuildings, granny flats, etc. will probably come back into vogue.

(via Atrios)

We made the cover! by ajkandy
March 20, 2008, 2:13 pm
Filed under: griffintown, interviews, media, news

Montreal Mirror, March 20, 2008

Click the image to read the cover story by Mirror news editor Patrick Lejtenyi. (That’s me on the left, standing next to Chris and Judith Gobeil and their dog Andy.)

News Roundup, and Sign The Petition! by ajkandy

More Griffintown media mentions:

  • Eric Clement in La Presse reports that the Sud-Ouest borough’s star team of citizens, urbanists and architects — their Consulting Committee on Urbanism (CCU) — voted unanimously against the Griffintown project as proposed by Devimco — but their report was silenced.
  • Charles Poulin covers the still-unanswered questions in the Journal de Montreal.
  • Stephane Baillargeon, writing in Le Devoir, discusses the possibility of future economic collapse affecting Projet Griffintown.  (The question in the article attributed to Hélène Dansereau is actually the question I asked (on Peak Oil). The city’s urbanism guru, Luc Gagnon, blanked on that question and punted it over to Serge Goulet, who repeated his stump speech about LEED certification until I pointed out that that’s not what I asked, and then the moderator called time on things.)

If you haven’t done so already, read and sign the petition for a proper democratic process on Griffintown. If you already have, please pass the link along to colleagues, students, teachers, friends, and family! Remember…your neighborhood could be next!