Griffintown roundup

In and around Griffintown, a flurry of projects have been mooted, completed, or have stalled out before even starting. A sad constant in the excited talk about this part of town has been the absence of the citywide or borough Master Plan as a guideline. Even if a comprehensive document that was a major Tremblay campaign promise and policy plank in his first election, keeping an office full of professionals and a host of contractors busy for two years, isn’t going to be used as a planning tool, the borough typomorphological studies (here and here) give decent background. The Borough prepared additional useful material for a recent planning and consultation exercise for Griffintown, the results of which have yet to be released. Most media reports have shoehorned the story into a “revitalization” framework, though some detour into a nostalgic Drapeau-with-a-wrecking-ball tale, and it looks unlikely that we will get to have a useful public airing of how Griffintown got this way and the continuing role of industrial space near downtown. The map, and then the big list.

True North Properties’ Cours Windsor development (yellow), near the ÉTS, is nearing completion. Its easternmost phase, next to Chaboillez Square and the Planetarium (green), is said to have stalled out due to unforseen (though surely not unforeseeable) soil contamination issues. The Planetarium itself is supposed to move to the Parc Olympique, near the Saputodrome, leaving the square (and potentially some of the access ramps to the underground Ville-Marie Expressway) to be reconfigured and re-landscaped.

We have dealt with the ÉTS (blue) in the past, and Montreal City takes wistful note of the streets to be removed to make way for the latest hulk — earlier redevelopment in adjacent Little Burgundy and Saint-Henri were rightly criticized for closing off narrower north-south streets in favor of overly wide east-west streets and limp, poorly-lit “linear parks” filling in site area to lower the total density. Developers’ obsessions with assembling the largest possible site stem from their mulish insistence on importing exactly the same conditions they find in their suburban stomping grounds, get the city to de-map whatever streets might break up the uniformity of their own and as a result we get the garages and driveways of Little Burgundy (Brossard 1983) right next to the cheap condo towers and plentiful indoor parking of Cours Windsor (Brossard 1996) and the hostile, pale gray slabs of ÉTS (Darth Vader builds an office park). If the tight mix of industrial structures and short blocks of working-class rowhouses isn’t considered heritage worth preserving, maybe landmark structures such as the New City Gas behemoth next to the train tracks will fare better when re-used as squash courts or Pottery Barn outlets.

After deciding to consolidate Montreal-area sorting operations in Saint-Laurent, Canada Post has decided to sell off its canal-side sorting station (light blue) directly, bypassing city and community appeals to turn it over to Canada Lands Corporation for a publicly-led development process including a significant affordable housing component (one such plan here). A city-led planning charette came up with a nubmer of worthwhile concepts for the site, most of which entailed reexcavating the docks leading north from the canal, but Canada Post seems determined to sell to the highest bidder — who would likely not want to give up any part of the site, to water or to affordable housing.

The Société du Havre has a consultant’s report that neatly sums up the history and earlier plans for Silo No. 5 up to 2004, thus missing the latest competition including an entry from the Musée d’art contemporain that dominated the discussion of last year’s shortlist (the winner is supposed to be announced in 2007). As usual, the option of building a condo/hotel located far from any services of any kind is put forth as a surefire winner. Adjacent Bikerdike Pier was the target of a strange idea on the part of the Reichmann family, which took its “Destination: Technodome” concept of a theme park built on government-controlled and/or waterfront land to New York (the oft-coveted Arverne area in the Rockaways) and Toronto (Downsview Park), where they faced no warmer a reception than the flat refusal given them by the Port of Montreal. The rail line in dotted black, connecting the yards near the Victoria Bridge with the docks in Centre-Sud and Hochelaga via the tracks that parallel de la Commune and annoy waterfront boosters, will require similar tenacity if the Port wants to retain a rail link that plays and important role in their operations and gets trucks off of heavily used commuter roadway corridors.

After taking over the former Grand Trunk shops and a portion of the Victoria Bridge railyard (brown), Alstom quickly closed down the railcar maintenance facility that still remained and is supposedly interested in industrial and commercial redevelopment. Much of the railyard is built on fill, and all of it is likely soaked through with PCBs, PAHs and the assorted other nasty shit one finds in old railyards, which is exactly the problem that has blocked development on the adjacent Technoparc site for years. Some local developer is supposedly interested in putting a power center on the least-used portion of the yard, near the former Casino site, but has not publicly spoken of it as of late.

Devimco got a chunk of press for its announcement of a new-style power center on its lands (orange) north of the canal. Between that and their very public attempt to get the Canadiens to anchor a new South Shore practice facility/arena in their Quartier Dix30 development in Brossard, their press relations people deserve a big bonus this year. Whether or not an upscale suburban concept like that of Quartier Dix30, in which there are “streets” between the Chili’s and the Office Depot and “street life” provided by a pair of stubby condo towers, will work for a market of urbanites who can walk to real streets and real apartment buildings, remains to be seen. Surrounded by newer condo developments and lots of parking, a downtown power center could easily suck the remaining supermarkets out of a whole swath of adjacent areas, and seriously hamper what remains of the retail streets in the Point, Saint-Henri and Verdun. Between this project and the massive power center planned for the Francon Quarry, Montreal’s more peripheral neighborhood shopping strips could be in serious trouble.

It is unclear from media reports whether Devimco plans to develop the sites between the railway viaduct and the Bonaventure Expressway, to the south of the CCUM (oh man click it, it’s so cool like steam dude pssssh) plant. Some of those fall within the area identified by the SDH for its Bonaventure Expressway redevelopment (pink), and some may remain parkland leftover from the former Peel Basin park.

The Cité du Havre, mostly soundstages and Port office buildings, constructed for Expo on the ruins of the long-forgotten Goose Village, is being spoken of as a new Casino site (old site in turquoise) pending the re-wooing of Cirque du Soleil.

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2 responses to “Griffintown roundup

  1. Paper878@aol.com

    Re: M Bouchard and M Shapiro’s proposals for sud ouest and griffintown

    Dear Editor,

    Being a resident and major property owner in the area I take great exception to Griffintown being called a devastated zone. The area is safe, clean, habitable and absolutely interesting. Architecture that stretches from the mid 1800’s to 2004 that is functional with an unsegregated mixture of residential industrial and commercial usage. If there are economic issues in Montreal then M.Bouchard must realize that he was part of the problem. Investors do not like uncertainty or instability. M.Bouchard and M.Shapiro must believe in a fantasy. The future they describe includes low cost affordable housing surrounding a casino all built with private money (except the casino). Investors do not build low cost housing, the proof being that the cost of property in the neighbourhood has gone From $10.00 per square foot 3 years ago to $300 per square foot today and I know that the developers will use this report to their benefit immediately with even higher prices. I dare M.Bouchard and M.Shapiro to describe one new low cost privately developed project in the building boom that has overtaken the city over the last 4 years. There are none. One has to wonder as whether the authors have some financial interests. I certainly do, but I do not want to see my city becoming the unfriendly, over crowed urban jungle that the report describes and the drawings illustrate and as is happening on the site of the former Bonaventure Rail site, where developers are now building absolutely abhorrent condos in Stalinesque splendor on property that the federal government sold them at bargain basement prices a few years ago. There is a scandal here that begs to be reported on. We in Montreal were fortunate to miss out on the urban building spree of Toronto and other cities during the last thirty years of the 20th century, of course partly due to the likes of M. Bouchard and his cohorts. It is the only good legacy that he has left us and he should ponder it. M.Bouchard’s government and his replacement are responsible for the recent plans to extend the Ville Marie Expressway along the river and harbour and cut off the residents of Eastern Montreal from his beloved river. I don not get it.. The first new projects in my neighbourhood were Quebec Government sponsored office buildings (Cite Multimedia) which the government of M.Bouchard filled by raiding the tenants of private developers , giving them subsidies. Most of these subsidies have gone to world class corporations and were responsible for the cancellation of a large private project destined for the north side of Victoria Square. Another scandal.. Cite Multimedia remains largely vacant with entire new buildings of hundreds of thousands square feet sitting idle. It has become “Emptybuildings.com”. No thought was given to public transit during the whole process . Cite Multimedia was recently sold off to the private sector at bargain prices.And now again resold at obscene 100 million dollar profit in 1 year,(scandal) I can sit at my window and look through a 12 story glass tower that occupies a large city block and does not have even one occupant.The city of Montreal is now moving offices into i suppose to avoid all the embarrsassment. It was completed almost 4 years ago. Yet another scandal.
    If you can find the neighbourhood, you will find some beautiful art galleries, interesting small restaurants, a whole host of independent small business, no parking meters on our quiet streets.( there are no Tim Hortons or Macdonalds, no closed in shopping malls with chainstores).
    Mayor Drapeau sent a bulldozer through this neighbourhood in the early 1960’s to get rid of the slums and Frank Hanley. Nobody has bothered us since and I for one prefer it this way.

  2. watch out for a new casino proposal shortly probably after the coming election. It is really a sign of our civilization that all we are able to build are shopping centers and luxury condos and casinos

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