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Developer pushes ahead on historic area, residents play catch-up

by Archives February 26, 2008

Concerned residents flooded the gallery, stood when there were no more seats and watched from the staircase to hear a developer’s pitch that will change the future of their neighbourhood.
The first public consultation on a billion-dollar redevelopment project in Griffintown was held at the Ecole de Technologie Superieure Thursday night to give residents a glimpse of developer Devimco’s plans.
However, they left disappointed because the consultation revealed little beyond what they already knew from previous meetings.
The event is the first in a series which the council of the South West borough and developer Devimco had organized to get the public’s input on the Griffintown redevelopment project. One of the new elements presented to the public was a three-dimensional animation of what the Peel-Wellington sector of Griffintown will look like.
Serge Goulet, Devimco co-president, called the project a “new model of development, a new approach to collaboration which will give back to the community.” After the city and developer made their presentation, concerned citizens were allowed two questions each. The public will have to wait until late March to give their actual opinions on the project that will take a decade to complete.
Georges Bosse is a consultant with Daniel Arbour and Associates, a consulting firm working with Devimco. He echoed Goulet about how the project will reflect the needs of the community, saying that “for the past year and a half we’ve been working with nearly all the groups within the South West of Montreal, meeting with them, finding their needs.”
The proposed redevelopment project in the Peel-Wellington area will not only transform Griffintown, but Montreal as well. The project will be financed by the pension plans of Societe de Transport de Montreal (STM) and Quebec City employees as well as the Beaudoin-Bombardier family. Goulet said the project has five major goals. They are to ensure the vitality of the area as a residential sector, to protect and promote its’ industrial history; to facilitate access and honour the historic Lachine canal, make the area more accessible as well as reducing traffic.
The project plans to do this by changing the sector’s street grid. For example, Wellington and Ottawa streets will be widened while others, such as Dunn and Shannon, will be closed and built upon. Some new streets will be created as well, such as Rue de l’Ambiance.
Devimco is also investing $10 million in a tramway line which will connect Old Montreal to the downtown core. Once the project is complete, buildings in the area will generally be taller; ranging from 20 to 80 metres in height, instead of only 25 to 44 metres.
The project will feature several multi-purpose buildings that will have boutiques at ground level and apartments or condos above. During his presentation, Goulet claimed that Devimco’s project will be different from anything else Montrealers have seen because the residential parts of the buildings will sit further back from the street.
They won’t occupy the entire surface of the stores at the base of the buildings will take. Just under 4,000 residential units will be built, and 15 per cent of them will be designated as social housing.
And while the project plans to demolish many buildings considered significant in the sector, such as those on Wellington close to De La Montagne Street, others considered of exceptional historical value such as the New City Gas Company building, the Crathern & Caverhill depot as well as the Square Gallery building will remain standing. The CN control tower beside the bike path will remain as well, along with 19 residential buildings on Ottawa Street close to Murray Street.
Christopher Gobeil is a resident of Griffintown who owns a heritage house. He is also a spokesperson for the committee for the sustainable redevelopment of Griffintown.
He attended meetings concerning the project before and said there was nothing new at the meeting on Thursday, saying “there are no details in this stuff, it’s all fluff.” “The only thing that’s real is that Devimco is going to get to grab all this land at a pretty darn good price,” he added.
Madeleine Juneau is the manager of the Maison Saint-Gabriel historical site museum in Pointe-Saint-Charles. She has a different perspective on the project, saying she thinks the project will “revitalize Griffintown and create something unique in Montreal.”
Construction is scheduled to begin in the Spring of 2009. If everything goes according to schedule, the final project could get approved by the city and the developer in March or April.

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