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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.
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Before they fall to the wreckers’ ball, check out Lloyd Gross’ fascinating high-res set of a wintry Griffintown, taken last November. Lloyd was born in Griffintown and is now one of the many contributors to the popular Guess Where In Montreal? Flickr group.
I can’t help but think that in other cities, industrial buildings like these are prized and refitted, and right now we’re looking at trashing them. What really stands out in this set is not the condition or noteworthiness of the buildings, but more the opportunity for gentle, sensible infill development and rehabilitation of derelict structures.
…Anyone else reminded of the ongoing subplot of the Robocop movies, where a city/corporation with ulterior motives plans to demolish Old Detroit and replace it with the shiny new consumer paradise, Delta City? Call it disaster urbanism.
Filed under: agencies, developers, Devimco, griffintown, media, Uncategorized
Two city agencies have come down harshly on the current Village Griffintown project, as it proposes to demolish or alter several listed heritage buildings, and because the project was never submitted for a proper series of public consultations, as is required by the City code. The modifications to the area proposed by Devimco “puts Montreal’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage site” at risk, says a memo obtained by La Presse.
The agencies’ misgivings were submitted to the project committee before Christmas, but were never made public. The head of Montreal 2025 and a member of the city’s Executive Committee, Alan deSousa, says that all of their input was incorporated into a modified plan that reduced commercial space, but says “there’s no question of bringing this to the OCPM (Office des consultations publiques de Montréal).” Instead, the Sud-Ouest borough will be holding hearings at its public meetings, under the Programme particulier d’urbanisme banner.
Speaking personally, I find the lack of a truly transparent public consultation process to be a sign that the city doesn’t intend to listen to its citizens. The local-borough meeting process is really less than informative: you have to email someone to get them to add you to a mailing list (nope, no web-based signup links or anything).
The list periodically sends you a Word document (!) which lists upcoming meeting topics, most of which are written in appalling bureaucratese and which often make reference to case numbers instead of the name of the project. So far I don’t think they’ve done any meetings on Village Griffintown, but they’re supposed to have at least a few before April — when I get the information I’ll repost it here.
File this one under out-of-the-loop, but I have only now heard that there’s an urbanism conference happening today at the Ecole de Technologie Superieure (corner of Peel and Notre-Dame), where Devimco president Serge Goulet will be presenting information about the Village Griffintown project. Attendance is so high they’ve had to move it into a larger auditorium. The presentation starts at 5:30pm and if you’re interested, you need to get down to the ETS and register before 5pm.
Apparently the Centre de concertation already had a discussion group at the school yesterday (Tuesday January 8th); it seems that the ETS is getting a Devimco-funded chair in sustainable development out of the deal, plus the opportunity to use the project as a “living laboratory” for new building technologies and sustainability practices.
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What’s been bothering many people (myself included) about the Village Griffintown project was the secrecy with which the project was developed; the project was presented pretty much as a fait accompli. Word on the street says they want to have the public consultation process wrapped up by April, so there’s a very small window of time for people to organize any sort of response.
There was a semi-publicized event months ago called “Les Dialogues du Griffintown,” but that was essentially a confab for invited architects, urban planning agencies and other professionals; the public wasn’t welcome.
Furthermore, I understand that it’s largely a private project and thus the choice of urban design agency wasn’t open to public tenders or a design competition, but I can’t help thinking that one would have helped the project immensely. A New Urbanist-style charrette would have been even better.
Virtually next door to Village Griffintown is the Quartier International de Montreal, an immensely successful, beautiful and well-planned urban redesign project that the public actually loves, by all accounts. This should be the standard for other projects in the area. I rather wish that the same design consortia had been retained for this project, rather than the team that rather inelegantly grafted a Loblaws onto the Parc Avenue metro stop and bandaged it with flowerbeds afterwards.
According to Le Devoir, the Shiller family — best known to Montrealers of a certain age for the campy TV ads they created for their Au Bon Marché store in the 1980s — have moved into the business of buying up moribund retail real estate and transforming blocks into hip, happening places. They’ve revived Masson street, and are now responsible for the attractive mix of shops and restaurants on Notre-Dame near Atwater. (I’d love to get their expertise in on the Village Griffintown project.)
(via Montreal City Weblog)
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Recently, Quebec developer Devimco partnered with Toronto-based RioCan to build the suburban Dix30 “lifestyle centre,” a drive-in power-centre big-box shopping mall located in a greenfield development at the intersections of Highways 10 and 30 on the South Shore.
Devimco is now working with the City of Montreal to push through a similar $1B development right at the foot of Peel Street, on the Peel Basin section of the Lachine Canal, likely occupying the same land that was originally proposed for the now-defunct Cirque du Soleil / Casino complex. Reportedly, Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire are to be anchor tenants.
A suburban mall at the foot of one of Montreal’s central boulevards, in the middle of Griffintown and adjacent to Old Montreal, ignores both the “retail DNA” of Montreal and the history of a proud neighborhood. It’s anti-urban, representing low density and sprawl, and there is serious doubt that it will contribute positively in terms of built space, eyes on the street, and other issues.
Even if there is a residential tower attached, as the current proposal includes, it’s still likely going to be a lot of cheap sheds separated by acres of parking. It’s an odd decision in a neighborhood that is moving towards drastically increased residential density and good urban design, and which is likely to be enhanced by the Harbour Commission’s plans to demolish the elevated portions of the Bonaventure Expressway to create a pedestrian-friendly urban boulevard and tramway links. With Peak Oil on the horizon, are big-box malls of national chain retail even viable, anyway?
We — being Stephanie Troeth and yours truly, AJ Kandy — are proposing an alternative, urbanist vision for the project in a quick six-minute presentation at the upcoming Montreal Pecha Kucha Night, Tuesday, September 18th at the SAT, starting at 8:00pm. We hope to see all of you there, and for those who can’t attend, we’ll be republishing it online with narration, background articles and links, and providing tools for action and discussion.
In the meantime, interested citizens should get in touch with the Sud-Ouest borough mayor’s office about an upcoming series of public consultations on the project.