Save Griffintown!

Home Depot on 23rd near Broadway, NYC by ajkandy
September 22, 2008, 8:24 am
Filed under: architecture, New York City, Retail, Urbanism

Home Depot on 23rd

If New York City and the Home Depot can get their act together to make a proper multi-floor department store inside of an older building, instead of a boring glass-box large-surface retail…thing… why can’t we?

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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James Howard Kunstler + Urban Issues on CBC’s Sunday Edition by ajkandy
February 17, 2008, 10:40 am
Filed under: James Howard Kunstler, media, Urbanism

by A.J. Kandy

Tuned in to the CBC this morning to catch the last part of an interview with urbanist/author/gadfly James Howard Kunstler, on an episode of Sunday Edition devoted to exploring city issues. Kunstler brought up his greatest hits — peak oil, urban vs. suburban design, how we’re going to have to live in the future, how people confuse technology with energy. His new novel, The World Made By Hand, about life in Upstate New York in a post-oil future, is now shipping.

Also featured: an interview with the 30-year mayor of Mississauga (who frankly sounded occasionally clueless about the issues the interviewer brought up) touting the fact that dense condo towers seemed to be desirable in her city, vs decades of single-family-home suburban sprawl. She did make the emininently sensible claim (echoing Kunstler, albeit inadvertently) that the federal government needs to reinvest in passenger rail in a big way.

I’m not sure when it’ll be rebroadcast, but the show should be available as a podcast soon here.

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Notes from the Little Burgundy Coalition subcommittee meeting by steph

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.

Urban Planners Discuss Griffintown, Feb. 12th by ajkandy
January 31, 2008, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Concordia, Events, Little Burgundy, UQAM, Urbanism

by A.J. Kandy

Residents, community activists and urban planning geeks™ are getting an early Valentine from the Little Burgundy Coalition, who are holding a public discussion on the Projet Griffintown issue for Tuesday, February 12th at the Centre-Culturel Georges-Vanier, on Workman near Charlevoix.

Urbanism professors Pierre Gauthier from Concordia and David Hanna from UQAM will be discussing the project with members of the Coalition and the community at a special meeting. Members of the public are welcome, but be aware that seating may be limited. (This isn’t an official public consultation — stay tuned for details on that schedule.) It’s in the morning, so ouch, but we’re both making time to be there — this matters.

February 12th, from 9AM-noon
Centre Culturel Georges-Vanier (2nd floor)
2450 rue Workman

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Save Griffintown Presentation at Indyish, Jan 25th! by ajkandy
January 15, 2008, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Events, griffintown, indyish, Live Presentations, Urbanism

Check out our new, expanded-and-updated presentation at the Indyish City Mess, a grouping of indie artists, musicians and urbanists (is there such as a thing as an indie urbanist? I guess we count). The goal is to explore “The City” through music, spoken word, film, photography and presentations.

The event starts at 9:00 pm and features music by Lake of Stew, Charlotte Cornfield and Geoff Faribault, spoken word pieces by Alison Louder and Simon Schlesinger, presentations by yourselves truly on Griffintown, and Joel Thibert on Place D’Armes; films and photos.

The shindig is emceed by the hilarious Christine Ghawi and Dan Jeanotte of Uncalled For Improv. There will be door prizes provided by Nightwood Band, and an all-night dance party afterwards with DJ Afrokats.

Event details on Facebook

Friday, January 25th, 9:00pm until 3:00am
Studio 300
409 St-Francois-Xavier
Montreal, QC

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McGill’s Raphael Fischler: Village Griffintown too big, hurts downtown by ajkandy

Raphael Fischler writes in today’s Gazette:

This is no way to build cities, megaproject by megaproject. There is no reason, except for developers’ hubris, to develop such a huge swath of land in one swoop. This is not a railyard that is lying fallow; it is a working piece of the city. It is in bad shape and definitely needs upgrading. But that process must take place gradually, in medium-sized (or even small) increments that complete the area and complement each other, rather than in a large-scale project that obliterates what exists.

Fischler, a professor at McGill’s School of Urban Planning, suggests instead a new Plan d’urbanisme that doesn’t favour a single developer so strongly, that would forbid the consolidation of entire blocks (as the current design does), exclude the possibility of expropriations, move the proposed concert hall and international student housing to downtown, and sign developers to binding contracts that mandate mixed-use development.

He notes:

Disappointed and hurt by the loss of the Casino de Montréal- Cirque du Soleil project near Point St. Charles, Tremblay urges us not to let this project slip by. My guess is Montrealers won’t let good projects slip by – but they will fight bad ones.

Images from the Devimco / Arbour Associates proposal by ajkandy
November 22, 2007, 8:48 pm
Filed under: griffintown, media, proposal, Urbanism

Aerial rendering - Village Griffintown

Aerial view, Village Griffintown proposal on the Peel Basin.

Plan view, Village Griffintown

Large map view showing usage notes for buildings. (click image to go to Flickr page with larger view).

Top-down plan view of Village Griffintown

Smaller map view with numbered points referring to these images. #3 is the large aerial view, top.

View of

View corresponding to point #2 in the map, the so-called “Place de la Montagne”.

View on Rue Ottawa

View corresponding to point #1 in the map, the corner of Ottawa street, incorporating an older heritage building.

Devimco, City of Montreal officially announce project by ajkandy
November 22, 2007, 5:27 pm
Filed under: griffintown, media, Urbanism

Finally, the city of Montreal and Devimco have issued a press release with more details about the Village Griffintown project. On paper, it seems like a sensitive proposal; they’ve got Heritage Montreal involved, they claim to be respecting the heritage commission’s report on the area, and they want to ensure that it’s transit-friendly, with access via the proposed tramway line. Parking is to be underground, there are to be two hotels, and 3000 residences, many of which will be subsidized lower-cost housing. A renowned urban-design firm, Daniel Arbour & Associé, (warning: Flash) has been attached to the project — they did the reworking of Parc metro when the Loblaws was built there, among other projects.

No photos or renderings as of yet. I’ve called the PR firm who put out the release; Arbour & Associé declined to comment, and I’ve left a message with the city of Montreal’s Sud-ouest mairie. No public consultations have been announced yet.

On the plus side, it appears that blocks towards the eastern end of the project, including the Horse Palace and other older housing, has been designated with heritage status, according to Judith Gobeil, who’s part of the project to get a Griffintown Museum together on that site.

Our vision by ajkandy
November 22, 2007, 5:26 pm
Filed under: griffintown, Live Presentations, Urbanism

Our proposal for Village Griffintown

This is the Photoshopped image we created for our Pecha Kucha Night presentation on the Village Griffintown project, which also forms part of this blog’s header graphics. Based on an image of the actual Dix30 shopping centre, we added in elements of Old Montreal, the Atwater Market, Bonsecours Market and Complexe Guy-Favreau to create a typical Montreal retail street with apartments and offices above shops. It’s meant to suggest a development that is in keeping with the heritage of the area, providing increased retail / residential density, while retaining a pedestrian-friendly feel and “eyes on the street.”