Save Griffintown!


Thoughts from Project Griffintown Public Meeting by steph
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.

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