Everyone’s talking about Griffintown

I was planning to post a roundup of Griffintown-related news, but there’s more than I could possibly summarize in a blog post. So instead, I’ll just point you to the two blogs covering the issue: Save Griffintown and CSR Griffintown. Both point especially to a petition demanding a more democratic public consultation process.

8 thoughts on “Everyone’s talking about Griffintown

  1. Eric

    I don’t know, the more I read about Griffintown the more I support the development plan. I find it surprising that all the people with their new technologies and websites can be so afraid of change. I live next to Griffintown and don;t see what they are fighting to save except a few very ugly and outdated industrial buildings. I would love to see anything in this part of town replaced with a Loblaws or (fingers crossed) a Best Buy.

    In any case, I would not be surprised if the project gets half done when the developer goes broke and can;t get financing, cuz that’s where the economy is headed. So all you people who are afraid of losing what’s left of some not very old buildings can take some consolation in that.

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  2. Fagstein Post author

    The impression I’ve gotten from the residents and other activists is that they’re not opposed to development in Griffintown. In fact, they also feel it’s desperately needed. And between the status quo and Devimco’s plan, they’d go with the development.

    But they’re worried by both the lack of meaningful public consultation and the scale of the project (the developer going broke in the middle of this plan is a big fear and would be a disaster for the area, probably turning it into a giant parking lot.)

    In short, they want the plan fixed, but not scrapped.

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  3. Eric

    This brings up another point… forget the activists… they are a pain and not worth the typing effort:P But, what residents? There are like 50 people, maybe, that live in Griffintown, the people who live around Griffintown are the products of development, whether they are living in recent condo conversions in Old Montreal or new condos built to the west, kinda hypocritical. Of course there is Sainte Henri and Pointe St. Charles, but they want developemnet, remember just a couple years ago they were complaining that they didn;t even have a grocery in their neighborhood? I guess if more people are allowed to live in the area it make them less trendy and special for living there.

    Who wants to put up with public consultations when you get the same kinds of people there all the time, a mix of “I’m afraid of change people” and bunch of “someone has to listen to me people”, probably the same people who cheered for the snow dump on de Maisonneuve, sorry, I mean the bike path…

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  4. Neath

    The whole issue is about a lack of public consultation and just handing an entire district of the city over to one company, one that also has the former Mayor of Verdun as a key person. There is a whole lot of wrong with the way that project has been pushed through. Aesthetics and preservation of Irish culture also are very up front.

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  5. Kate M.

    Devimco is chiefly known for creating Dix30, a “lifestyle” development at the crossroads of highways 10 and 30 on the south shore. Their idea was pretty much to import that suburban, car-oriented kind of development holus bolus into Griffintown, completely ignoring a number of glaring reasons why it is not a suitable kind of development for an urban setting. The activists (among whom are good friends of mine) want to make it clear to the city (which has a history of going silent and not communicating when they’re in the mood to push something like this through) that they would like to see something happen there, but not something suitable for a highway development.

    Montreal ensured the slow death of Griffintown 40 years ago when they zoned it for small industry only at a time when the closure of the Lachine Canal (as the Seaway opened) meant there was no real point in anyone opening new industrial installations there. So with no new residential buildings and no industry either, it became a wasteland of warehouses and other small dead-end businesses, with residual grandfathered residential streets remaining from earlier times. The city should rezone it for mixed development and allow change, yes, but not en bloc by one greedy developer.

    An Overdale scenario is also a major concern if one developer is allowed to run the whole show. Allow a patchwork approach, limit building heights, enforce green spaces and respect for heritage, and I think everyone would be happy to see the area flourish again as a viable Montreal neighbourhood.

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  6. AJ Kandy

    Eric, it’s easy to say that these things don’t matter, or that real people don’t matter, when you don’t live there.

    For every triumph of recent urban design like the Quartier International or the Cité Multimedia, we have to remember our city’s really dismal record of urban renewal nightmares, all related to megaprojects, and which usually involve expropriating current residents.

    The Olympic Stadium…Maison Radio-Canada…les Habitations Jeanne-Mance….the demolition of a huge swath of Old Montreal for the construction of the Ville-Marie Expressway…the demolition of a massive chunk of NDG and Snowdon to create the Décarie Expressway…etc.

    The truth is that while maybe only 50 people live in the area in question, many MORE people work in the area and own businesses, and just outside that area, there are hundreds of residents.

    If you know anything about traffic design then you know that all this increased traffic is going to affect neighboring streets, for one thing. From an economic perspective, it may have the same effect on downtown and the Sud-Ouest that Carrefour Angrignon had on Lasalle and Verdun when it opened — effectively vacuuming up all the local retail.

    Furthermore, we are coming to the end of the cheap energy era. The entire economic rationale behind this project is the continuation of things like chain retail, globalized manufacturing, motorized shoppers….a system that may destabilize almost immediately after the project is built, if oil industry experts are to be believed. (And don’t mistake technology for energy; almost every other solution out there, like hydrogen. ethanol or biodiesel, uses more energy to create the fuel than you get out of it.)

    In any case — we are not against development, we’re just against *bad* development. We want to be part of the process, to help shape it in what we see is a more sustainable direction…but the city seems bent on preventing that, by resorting to processes that subvert democratic instruments like the OCPM.

    If you love Montreal, you can’t just accept what developers want to give us at face value, no matter how glitzy it is, or how currently empty the area. Most of my friends moved here from other cities because they love the urban character here; a project like this makes me think of a generic any-city, the kind of towers they build in Vancouver and Calgary. It doesn’t belong to our urban DNA, the way that Mile-End, the Plateau, Old Montreal or large parts of the Sud-Ouest are built.

    If citizen activists had not spoken up, the area around Milton / Parc would have totally razed for a sterile group of six oversized towers…right at the foot of Mount Royal. It was possible to achieve compromise, and today we have the La Cité apartments side-by-side with cooperatively owned residences and heritage townhouses. That’s an admirable objective to shoot for.

    cheers,
    AJ

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  7. AJ Kandy

    Eric, I think you’d be singing a different tune if it was your house or business being expropriated.

    I don’t think you understand what we’re concerned about at all. We’re not anti-development, we’re against BAD development and against an undemocratic consultation process.

    If it hadn’t been for citizen activists, the area around Milton / Parc would have been completely razed for six soulless towers the size of Place Ville Marie — right at the foot of the mountain.

    They worked with the developer to create a compromise — the land is held by a cooperative trust; they scaled back the demolition and construction to what is currently the two La Cité buildings, preserving heritage townhouses; and helped keep affordable, rent-controlled apartments in the area.

    Redeveloping Griffintown is not a bad idea. However, erasing heritage buildings (or cannibalizing them for a ‘shell’) isn’t really preservation. Putting something the size of TWO Complexe Desjardins next to 2 and 3-story row houses isn’t being a good neighbor. Sending people around door to door to try to get people to sell out, using the threat of expropriation by the city, is unethical. Getting a huge amount of land at pre-rezoning prices means a gift of a free $100 million from us, the taxpayers, to a private company!

    It isn’t just 50 homeowners in the immediate area that are affected; this has urban planning and economic repercussions that affect downtown and the entire Sud-Ouest. There are bound to be unintended consequences if we don’t think this through properly. It sets a dangerous legal precedent, for one thing; what neighborhood would be safe in the future?

    On a more personal note, I have to ask — where would people prefer to live in Montreal if they could afford it? The answer is usually Mile-End or the Plateau. Those are organic neighborhoods built at a human scale, with varying density, and that support a wide variety of residents. I can’t think of anyone who really enjoys living in a high-rise apartment — you’re disconnected from the street. That’s not Montreal.

    You can get the same density without the use of high-rises; most European cities are only 6-8 stories high, and boast upwards of 1000+ more people per sq. km than we do. Even with the amount of retail they want to put in, it’s surely possible with some creative thinking.

    Surely we can do better than this. Surely we deserve better than to be treated like this. Surely there is room, and time, to take a sober second look at this project, and to put it through the process that the City itself put in place (in fact, it was Tremblay’s invention), the Office des consultations publiques de Montreal (OCPM).

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