Prepared 7 December 2010 for Profs. Raphaël Fischler and Mohammed-Reza Masnavi (URBP622, McGill University).
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Executive Summary / Memorandum
The Sud-Ouest borough district of Griffintown exists at the edge of two boroughs: it is closer to its neighbouring borough, Ville-Marie, than it is to the heart of its own in Sud-Ouest. This is a peculiar for a district whose city is balkanized further by borough-level councils. Today, Griffintown is scarred by interventions that helped raise its next-door borough to the centre of municipal governance, financial prominence, and the hub for regional transportation. As a district, Griffintown is effectively a waif to Ville-Marie without being its direct beneficiary. After nearly a century of decisions which dismantled a working class community, there is an ominous urban silence similar to a graveyard.
This is starting to change in gentle, but definite waves, what with the last decade’s recent interest by Cirque du Soleil, Lowney, Devimco, and others to introduce major-scale restorations and development projects for Griffintown — namely to take advantage of an under-utilized expanse of real estate so near to the city centre than to consider how it will benefit Griffintowners or the city as a whole. Some of these ventures have proceeded, such as Lowney Lofts and Les Bassins du Nouveau Havre, while others have either fallen through or are on hold.
The impetus for Griffintown Ville Reunion 2030 is to draw together two essential relationships. One, the economic, social, and ecological health of Griffintown is as much a responsibility to the boroughs with which it is geographically aligned as it is a potential for the city to showcase its commitment to smarter, more sustainable development and growth. And two, the deliberate, thoughtful planning for a city such as Montréal should not be segmented along — or stop at — borough lines. Rather, the needs of multiple boroughs poised to reap benefit from planning choices must also be ready to accept burdens of leveraging development with noted risks. This means to step back and identify the caveat of large ventures which appear financially attractive on paper, but puts the district, its residents, and existing businesses into a vulnerable place for future hardship in the event those projects are not realized as hoped. The pressure for these projects to succeed is offset by a substantial risk for failure, and this could leave another ugly scar on a district with plenty of them already.
The objectives for Griffintown Ville Reunion 2030 master plan:
- For transportation, perform a kind of cardiac bypass surgery to re-open streets and restore movement blocked by old barriers;
- For development, break down the perceived size of Griffintown into clusters, each having its own anchor of key activity; and
- To more finely define the land-use categories and restrictions on real estate footprints on developing a stronger footing for growth.
As the planner charged with drafting this master plan, I humbly recommend that the city and the boroughs of Sud-Ouest and Ville-Marie take a closer look at how they can plan for Griffintown which weaves it back into a vibrant city by applying sound, incremental planning decisions at a more approachable scale. The final outcome and returns on capital investment may take longer to realize, but they will also come with a reduced degree of risk that Griffintown and Montréal simply cannot afford to squander away at will.