The Office de consultation publique de Montréal releases its report on the consultation held in recent months to establish a vision and development orientations for the Griffintown area. Located in the Sud-Ouest borough, at the entrance to the central business district, the area was used for industrial purposes in the 19th century. Its progressive decline was precipitated by the closing of the Lachine Canal in 1970.
The redevelopment of Griffintown generated a great deal of interest with developers and the general population, reflected in the large participation in the consultation nearing completion, one of the most significant that the Office has ever experienced. Some 1,000 people participated in the activities of the commission, including 49 people and groups who spoke at the formal hearings. The opinions expressed covered a wide range of topics, in keeping with the magnitude of the mandate the commission had to fulfill.
The area has important heritage value and offers great repurposing and development potential. The commission believes that innovation and creativity have been part of Griffintown’s DNA since the 19th century, and should be the lead wires for the development vision for the area, in a spirit linking past and future. This involves innovation at all levels, including technological, social, urbanistic and environmental.
The commission has identified five unifying development principles that should guide Montréal in drafting its integrated development plan for Griffintown:
- Montréal should capitalize on the added value of the heritage factor for its revitalization of the area;
- The redevelopment of Griffintown should aim to open up a mixed and multifunctional area, connected with the surrounding areas;
- The densification of the area should be seen as a tool serving the quality of life;
- It is important to create green spaces and promote the liveliness of the neighbourhood;
- The planning should aim to make Griffintown a model of sustainable development.
The consultation began in an atmosphere of scepticism. Given the numerous real estate projects already authorized or under way, a very large number of participants fear that Montréal will be forced to react to rapidly multiplying private projects rather than exercising the leadership we expect from it so that the neighbourhood can develop coherently and in the general interest in the long term.
The commission believes that it is not too late to deflect certain trends, but that time is of the essence and that it is urgent to act. Notably, the commission recommends:
- That Montréal, in the short term, prepare the ground for a heritage protection and enhancement strategy for the area, including emblematic buildings and the street grid; and that it make the commitment to protect them and make them revitalization centres;
- That only projects respecting the height limits provided under existing by-laws be authorized, until the integrated urban development plan is adopted;
- That projects of great height by right be authorized only by requiring the integration of proportional green spaces, to lessen their street presence and allow the neighbourhood to breathe;
- That the Affordable Housing Inclusion Strategy continue to apply to all projects of 200 or more units, whether by right or not, and that the borough pursue its efforts with respect to projects of 200 units or less;
- That Montréal quickly set up the necessary land banks or rely on other means, notably regulatory tools, to reserve land for parks, public spaces and co-op housing for families;
- That it employ the appropriate means, including by-laws, to preserve artists’ studios;
- That a project office be duly established, bringing together the central city and the Sud-Ouest borough. All Montréal departments concerned with the reconstruction of Griffintown should be represented there. The office should also have access to external resources;
- That a joint-action committee comprised of local players be established as quickly as possible. The project office should involve the committee in the various stages of the area’s development.
The commission points out that, according to general opinion, the redevelopment of an urban area of the magnitude of Griffintown, at the gates to downtown Montréal and the historic area, deserves that we take the time required to do a good job, once the necessary precautions have been taken to allow Griffintown to preserve and build on its character. Some said that the challenge would extend over 10 to 15 years, and the vision outlined in this report pertains to a major urban project that must be closely monitored through every development, every construction, and every building.
Lastly, the commission recommends that Montréal quickly establish a plan of the investments it expects to make over the next five years to develop a quality public environment. Some financing methods were also suggested.