Friday, 25 April 2008

Griffintown Project: City of Montreal and Developer Agree on Plan to Drastically Remake Historical Industrial Sector

The plans have changed somewhat—some more “affordable” and subsidized housing units, promises of green construction, a larger contribution to construction of a tramway—but the drawing retains the major elements of the Griffintown development agreed upon by the city of Montreal and Devimco, the developer, and announced Thursday.

Sunday, however, supporters of keeping the historical former industrial area from major change will hold a funeral march to mourn the death of what was a unique part of Montreal. They contend that the area could have been revitalized without massive razing of buildings and major changes to the street layout, one of the first grid plans in North America.

But after months of discussions it looks like nothing can stop Devimco from putting up several large high-rise buildings, a retail area the size of a major shopping center, and rejigging a number of streets. Even economic bad times shouldn’t be a problem, Devimco’s co-president Serge Goulet said at a press conference. The project will take years to complete which means that the business cycle should be on an up tick when Griffintown comes on stream, and, besides, there’s always room for a “Category A” development, he said.

Maybe. There still are very worrying things about the plans, including the 4,000 parking places which are part of the commercial sector of the development. Who is going to use them? What will be the effect on local traffic patterns? And what will be the effect on existing retail in Montreal’s central shopping district, not far away?

Another danger is that Devimco, having wrung concessions on zoning from the city and other promises, will build the shopping center and parking structures and then quit. Much of the residential and office development will go on top of that space, and it would be all to easy to plead bad economic times or lack of success to wiggle out of commitments to building housing.

Mixed retail, residential and commercial uses in a dense urban context are what our cities need. Griffintown as currently approved may be bad for the neighborhood but it would be a catastrophe for Montreal if Devimco were to cherry-pick the most profitable parts of the plan and plead poverty when it comes to rest.

To be continued...

Image: From the Save Griffintown pool, and created by Daniel Arbour & Associates to illustrate the Village Griffintown proposal.

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