Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Griffintown story from the Montreal Gazette (hopefully in it's entirety ,I had trouble posting)

Too little, too late? Urban plan for Griffintown came after the fact

The parking lot is promised as a park, one of at least six new parks slated for Griffintown. It is an echo of the desolation of the area just a few years ago; one can imagine that a park would provide much needed green space amid the condos and concrete.
The city, which is now in the process of expropriating the land, might have to shell over a small fortune for the lot if it pays market value. With the average price of land in the sector now about $300 a square foot, the lot of almost 90,000 square feet could be worth about $27 million.
In fact, the city has earmarked just over $28 million to acquire the lot.
Ten years ago, you could have bought any piece of land in Griffintown for between $8 and $20 a square foot, said community activist and landowner Harvey Lev. The same rising cost applies to future schools, he added.
“Why did the city not designate land for parks and schools 10 years ago?” asked Lev, who sees a disaster in a landscape of bland condo towers.
The price tag for the park land is just a hint of the repercussions brought on by lack of planning from the outset, critics say.

MONTREAL, QUE.: JULY 06, 2015 -- Parking lot in front of restored New City Gas, on Monday July 06, 2015.The lot is meant be become a municipal park. (Pierre Obendrauf / MONTREAL GAZETTE)
The market value for this parking lot, which the city plans to buy to transform into a park, has climbed to about $27 million. PIERRE OBENDRAUF /MONTREAL GAZETTE

Meanwhile, Griffintown has become a trendy name, with burgeoning condos and businesses generating buzz.
“But trendiness is not a long-term solution,’’ said Heritage Montreal policy director Dinu Bumbaru, noting that much of St-Laurent Blvd. has gone downhill as other areas have come up. “We want this to become an attractive place for a generation, not just a season.”
Jeffrey Dungen, a resident who campaigned against zoning changes in 2008 that allowed for towers as high as 80 metres in some sectors, said activists made a concerted effort to brand the Griffintown development as controversial.
Today, Dungen said, when you hear the name Griffintown, “you think of New City Gas, rooftop parties and condos and having good time. It seems trendy.”
For him, the toughest part about the changes is seeing all those towers on “a city grid almost 200 years old that was never made to see buildings 60 metres tall.”
The activists’ efforts did pay off, however — there is a lingering stigma to the changing Griffintown.


Sud-Ouest borough mayor Benoît Dorais acknowledges Griffintown’s bad reputation. Like many people, he contends that the administration of former mayor Gérald Tremblay did a poor job of planning for the district’s development.
“It’s a paradox,’’ he said, ‘’because Griffintown has this bad press — on planning, on the construction sites, on the belief that it’s just condos, which is not true. But at the same time it’s growing incredibly, it’s incredibly popular; people want to live there and developers want to invest, and there are a huge number of businesses opening.”
As development moves forward, Dorais is armed with the borough’s Programme particulier d’urbanisme (PPU) — the special urban plan for Griffintown’s development — set in motion in 2009 and adopted in 2013, as well as $141 million the city has earmarked for infrastructure and parks in the area.
Dorais said only about half the land in Griffintown is spoken for at the moment. That there is a lot of land left to develop is a good thing, he said, because there is still much to accomplish.
The borough is planning “rue habitées” — streets designed to favour pedestrians over cars — on small stretches on Montfort and St-Paul Sts., with other nearby streets to be redesigned later.
A concept for Peel St. is to come next year, Dorais said.
There are also early plans for a cultural corridor on Ottawa St., with commercial zoning for the ground level, and plans to highlight remaining heritage buildings such as New City Gas, the Griffintown Horse Palace, art galleries and fire stations.
The city is also working with the STM to create new bus lines linked to the métro system, while infrastructure needs are being studied before new streets are laid.
But is it too little and too late? Has Montreal lost the opportunity to create a world-class development? It all goes back to planning.


In 2008, long before the Sud-Ouest borough’s urban development plan was adopted in 2013, the Peel-Wellington sector of the area was re-zoned to allow developer Devimco to build a commercial centre similar to its Dix30 mega mall in Brossard, with towers as high as 80 metres, or 20 storeys.
As Dungen recalls, early public outcry to the Devimco plan resulted in “Mickey Mouse consultations’’ during which a lot of people rallied around preserving the neighbourhood. The consultations were undertaken by the borough, not the independent Office de consultation publique de Montréal.
Dungen calls the consultations: “A little fake show.”
Devimco’s $1.3-billion plan died with the 2008 recession, perhaps also deflated by the public’s opposition.
We have a slogan at Heritage Montreal, which is ‘Give Peel a chance’
Fast-forward to the borough’s new urban plan, in which zoning stands at 80 metres near the Bonaventure Expressway, 60 to 70 metres south of William St. from Ann to Murray and on several blocks west of du Séminaire St., with the majority of the area zoned at about 25 metres.
The tallest buildings in Devimco’s scaled-down District Griffin project, the Griffix condo tower and the Philippe Starck Yoo condo building, top out at about 20 storeys.
To Bumbaru, the tallest structures went up with little regard for public spaces.
He says the area around Peel near William, with its “forest of towers,” is a missed opportunity.
There is hope, Bumbaru said, although Griffintown and neighbouring downtown Ville-Marie borough are not co-ordinating to connect with one another.
“We have a slogan at Heritage Montreal, which is ‘Give Peel a chance,’ ’’ he said, explaining that Peel is a key axis for the city as the only street running directly from the water to the mountain. “It needs a champion.”
Bumbaru cites the Griffintown Bassins du Havre condo and park projects as having been properly handled, with consultations carried out by the Office de consultation publique, and “a long-term view on the public benefit of the project, not just private returns.”
Bumbaru also doffs his hat at the row of fine red-brick Victorian houses next to the future Brickfields mixed condo-commercial project on de la Montagne St. Not only should they be saved, Bumbaru says, “They should bear a little plaque, an homage from the city of Montreal for being the pioneer that resisted the devastation of the area.”

MONTREAL, QUE.: JULY 14, 2015 -- Victorian houses on dela Montagne St. next to new condo project Brickfields in Griffintown on Tuesday July 14, 2015. (Pierre Obendrauf / MONTREAL GAZETTE)
Victorian houses on de la Montagne St. in Griffintown, next to the Brickfields condo project. PIERRE OBENDRAUF / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Pockets of row houses remain in the district, Bumbaru notes, including some rather shabby low-rise dwellings on Peel near Wellington, almost in the shadow of the District Griffin towers. Bumbaru says they are old workers’ tenements.
“You don’t have to demolish everything,’’ he said. “These little houses, if they are well treated, can provide that oasis of sky on what could be otherwise a rather densified area.”


Raphaël Fischler, director of the school of urban planning at McGill, says the creation in 2013 of the Quartier de l’innovation (QI), a partnership between the École de technologie supérieure (ETS), McGill and other parties, is centred on the notion of a creativity hub in Griffintown.
The two veins — innovation and condo development — are not easy to reconcile, he said.
“It’s not been so easy, because developers are interested in putting down as many condos as possible that sell as well as possible. They are not so interested in innovation, although they benefit from the branding,” Fischler said.
“The future of Griffintown is uncertain,’’ he said, in terms of who will be there, how it will function, and what the rest of development will be.
The rapid change characterized by condo construction — meaning land prices go up and many people are displaced — does not promote QI’s objective, he said. “Condo land is not a creative milieu.”
Despite the fact that being a landowner and seller in the now-trendy area has made him rich, Lev said is not impressed with how Griffintown is transforming.
“Who in their right mind wants to live in a neighbourhood that’s interspersed with 20-storey non-architectural towers? There’s no imagination,” Lev said.

Harvey Lev, who restored the New City Gas building in Griffintown, in the main garden in front of the nightclub.
Harvey Lev, who restored the New City Gas building in Griffintown, in the main garden in front of the nightclub. PIERRE OBENDRAUF / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Nobody walks in 20-storey neighbourhoods, with their wind tunnels, he said — the best neighbourhoods are those with three- and four-storey dwellings, like the Plateau, Rosemont, and N.D.G.
Seeing that downtown had nowhere to grow but south, Lev’s father started buying land in the area in the 1950s and 60s. Lev has since sold buildings and land to developer Prével and others.
“They made me rich, richer than I ever needed to be or wanted to be,” Lev said. “I also know that I can’t stop the juggernaut.”
The city could have created something special in Griffintown, Lev said. “What major city in the world can you find, let’s say two or three square miles, that needs rehabilitation right next to downtown?”
Jacques Charette, president of the Georges-Vanier Cultural Centre, points out that 10 years ago, there was not a word to be heard about Griffintown.
“Now, everything is called Griffintown,’’ he said. “The Griffintown Vet is opening up in Little Burgundy.”
Charette and Paul-Émile Rioux, a local gallery owner and president of the merchants association for the Quartier du Canal, tried to convince the city to plan for a central square or hub, a public place where people would gather, but to no avail.
Despite his disappointment over a lack of input from Griffintown’s residents, Rioux said he is happy that there’s life in the area again.
“We missed an occasion to do something right in a place that was wrong,’’ he said. “Now, (city and borough planners) are correcting the problems, trying to do their best.”

Saturday, July 25, 2015

"We Will Remember Them"------famous words but will we remember the griff

Yikes , almost a skyrise relative to what I recall in Griffintown............(well not quite) but certainly a vast difference. Can you imagine being away for years & arriving in Montreal to have a nostalgic visit..........and while driving through Griffintown you don't even know where you are........Well that's what's happening baby. "The Times They Are a Changing"  Us now considered old guys who remember Montreal the way we like, will sound like lunatics when trying to recall or tell someone of certain areas of Montreal that we knew like the back of our hand...and some young people wonder "what planet is this guy from" People that cannot remember when spruce beer & steamies (ok & toasties too) reigned supreme before they try to convince us that no no no poutine has been around forever.........BS.   Now they are changing the very face of the landscape that we had known forever. It makes some of us not even want to bother to visit our old stomping grounds anymore but prefer to talk with other aging boomers (Montrealer's actually) about what it was really like growing up in Montreal.
Read the following story from today's Montreal Gazette which tells the tale of what I think is just gentrification of the buildings  , never mind the real people who made the Griff (& Montreal) what it was.......Can you imagine 30 years from now when most of us are dead,some person of who knows where is sitting (god forbid a Bar) in some glorified coffee house ,with coffee's costing more than a case of beer.....and talking their version of tough......"Yes I remember when we didn't even have rainbow coloured crosswalks or get this only two restrooms to choose from, ya that's right sonny,only a mens or a womens.........Believe me when I tell you ,you had to be tough in the Griff.........LOL............  Ahhh yes the future. ( God Help Them)
Now read the Gazette story about the changing front of Griffintown.
             .......................HF&RV ..........................................Cheers ! LesF

Here is a vast parking lot, promised to be turned into a park under the Sud-Ouest borough’s urban plan. Therefacing north, a broad vista of Montreal’s cityscape rising from the razed flatlands, likely to soon be obscured by condo towers. Large, low-rise warehouses and factories still remain on the grid of narrow streets; some are handsome heritage red-brick buildings, others ugly, nondescript garages. Only a few small blocks of vintage row houses remain, most homes having fallen to ruin, ripe for demolition, after Mayor Jean Drapeau zoned the area strictly industrial in 1963.
The transformation of the district has been underway for years, with hip new restaurants setting up. Notre Dame W. stretching to Atwater Ave. has become the new strip for fine dining in town. A decor and design district is emerging on lower Peel St.
Everywhere, tidy little structures sit on empty lots, home to sales offices for developers, with their slick model units and even slicker sales pitches.
And people are moving back to Griffintown. Before the condo boom began in about 2004, only 1,500 to 2,000 people lived in the district. New condos are now home to another 5,000 residents — and counting.
To Luc Laroche, an owner of swanky Le Richmond restaurant on Richmond St. south of Notre Dame, the feeling in the area is like that of the Plateau a decade ago. “There was a happiness on the Plateau 10 years ago. Right now, there’s a joie de vivre here,” he said, his enthusiasm contagious, even as he admits he could not live with the constant “kabing, kabang! “of construction.
Laroche and partner Paul Soucie just added a 6,000-square-foot Italian market adjacent to the restaurant, both housed in an 1800s red-brick building that was first a power station, then a textile plant.
The restoration and renovation preserve the past and look to the future through dusty windows lined with lavender plants. Now there are trees, fields and construction pits through those handsome window panes. It’s hard to imagine the landscape tomorrow.
We missed the opportunity to create a world-class project.
“The area is on fire,” said Charles Bizeul, who runs Boucherie Grinder, a butcher shop opened in June by the popular Notre Dame W. restaurant of the same name. Giant carcasses of aged beef beckon (or repel) beneath a vintage-style sign with the notation: “Established 2015.”
Not everyone is enthralled with the flames.
Harvey Lev, a longtime activist and landowner in the area, renovated the 1859 New City Gas landmark, which is now a nightclub, and continues to lobby to save historic buildings.
“It’s a disaster,’’ Lev says of the way Griffintown has risen. And there is no saving it now, he adds.
“It was a money grab for the city. They allowed the developers carte blanche,” he says. “It will turn out to be a disaster for the 28-year-olds and 30-year-olds who bought condos here. They’re going to get screwed.”
There are more nuanced assessments.
Echoing almost everybody with an interest in Griffintown, digital artist Paul-Émile Rioux says there was a lack of broad planning and public consultation from the beginning, in the mid-2000s when Dix30 developer Devimco came in with plans for a major commercial project. That $1.3-billion project was scrapped after the 2008 recession, but the city granted zoning for highrise towers, and Devimco is now building a scaled-back development.
“We missed the opportunity to create a world-class project,” said Rioux, who runs a gallery in a former bank on Notre-Dame. He is also president of the merchants association for the Quartier du Canal, which includes Griffintown, St-Henri and Little Burgundy.
Dinu Bumbaru, policy director of Heritage Montreal, says it’s not just about being against towers.
“The issue of the character of the area is perhaps the more endangered heritage asset you have in Griffintown than individual structures,” Bumbaru said.
“The city can accommodate putting little heritage dots on the map, but overall character is something that can’t be handled by saying, ‘Okay, you’re going to have red brick on the outside of your building.’

Monday, July 6, 2015

Verdun Auditorium to get Facelift ($26 Mil worth)

Well a story in today's Montreal Gazette ,say that there is going to be a $26 million dollar facelift to the old Verdun Auditorium.
 I would say that just ripping off that tin crap siding they put on it 30 years or more ago, would be a good start. The Aud looked pretty cool as an old building & the so-called facelift they did,just made it look like a shed that should be torn down. It was absolute shit ,compared to what could have been done. (IMHO)
 I see they will try & capture some of it's old original look ,with the new improvements on the inside. Anyway here you go read the following story from the Gazette itself.     Cheers ! LesF


Under the redesign, the auditorium will be preserved, complete with its steel roof support trusses and wooden chairs that date back to the venue’s construction 75 years ago.But the dark brown aluminum cladding covering its front wThe renovations are expected to begin in April and be completed in 2018. The City of Montreal will cover half the cost, with additional funding coming from Quebec, Verdun and other sources. The venue will be wheelchair-accessible, including to athletes who play luge hockey.

For project designers, the main difficulty was to find a way to update the auditorium to the standards of modern, light-filled arenas and public venues, while maintaining the historic allure of a building that has been central to Verdun and its residents since it was built in 1939.
“The challenge was to link a modern, contemporary architectural intervention with the conservation of an important heritage site,” said Éric Gauthier of the FABG architectural firm. “At the same time we wanted to link it to the river behind, and without creating a closed box, but more of a convivial space.”
Whereas other municipalities in North America tend to demolish the old, particularly when it pertains to buildings of debatable aesthetic appeal, Montreal is unique in its attempts to preserve the historical nature of its buildings, Gauthier said. And renowned for it.
The redesign was spurred by the city’s needs to update the rinks’ ice surfaces, under Quebec law requiring the replacement of any arena refrigeration system that uses ozone-depleting freon gas by the year 2020. Officials hope that by modernizing the building and bringing it up to fire and earthquake-resistance standards, the lack of which caused its extinction as a concert venue in the 1990s, the auditorium will once again be a popular venue, one of the few in Montreal capable of seating 4,000 people.
“We want this temple of large-scale sports and cultural events to be revived” for the benefit of future generations, said Verdun Mayor Jean-François Parenteau, accompanied by Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.
Although several Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams played there, the last in 2011, officials said the renovations would not mean the return of major junior hockey to the city. The revival of wrestling greats the likes of Killer Kowalski and Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon is also unlikely. The arenas will honour the legacies of former National Hockey League greats Denis Savard and Scotty Bowman, who grew up in Verdun.
During renovations the borough will either stagger the work between the two arenas to allow skating to continue, or use rinks in other boroughs or municipalities.