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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Devimco scrapping project unless city pitches in, expropriation orders lifted

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The bad news for Devimco’s proposed 1.3 billion dollar redevelopment keeps piling up with last week possibly being the tipping point.  After being forced to scale back phase 1 of the plan due to an ailing economy, La Presse reported last week that unless the city pitches in with money to add green space to the Lachine Canal and go ahead with the tramway along Peel, they’ll pack up and head back to Brossard to do more work on their Dix30 “lifestyle centre”.  “J’ai multiplié par cinq la valeur de tous leurs terrains à mes frais. J’ai déjà dépensé 10 millions dans ce projet. J’ai pris des risques. Si je voulais, j’ai un million de pieds carrés à construire le long de l’autoroute 10 et c’est moins risqué…” Devimco president, Serge Goulet told La Presse.

Adding to Devimco’s Griffintown woes is the city’s decision to cancel the expropriation orders on the 27 properties set aside to be demolished in order to widen parts of Peel and Wellington.  This allows individual property owners in the area the ability to take new tenants again, sell their property outright, or to tear down their existing buildings and rebuild withing the framework of the Devimco-dictated PPU adopted last year.

Devimco asking the city for even more handouts than it has already received seems to finally be the last death-knell for this project.  Other developers have been clammering over Griffintown to build their own schemes and were extremely angry with the city last year when the entire area was handed over to Devimco without asking any other developers.  If the city does go through with Devimco’s demands, other developers will inevitably line up to say they can do it without the demands creating a less than ideal PR climate for City Hall (in an election year).  The loss of the forced expropriations on property owners gives Devimco considerably less leverage and may see the construction of individual projects without any involvement from Devimco.  I think it is now safe to predict that “Projet Griffintown” is dead and the neighbourhood’s immediate future is once again anybody’s guess.



  1. I for one hope it is dead along with the concept that one developer should be allowed to build a whole section of the city! Check your Jane Jacobs’ books and you will see her calling this type of project insanity piled up on top of insanity. There was no evidence that this type of thing worked 50 years ago, so, as the great lady was apt to ask, why do city planners keep insisting that it can work?

  2. A quick note, in: “Devimco’s proposed 1.3 million dollar”, we should read “1.3 billion”.

    I never believed that a dev could create a neighborhood. Those things happen organically, sure devs can help out with some complexes and whatnot, but overall the feel of a place should never be “ready made” or even planned, it simply wont stick: life will outgrow the planning.
    Seeing dix30 as it is, i was scared a nice developing area would resemble brossard, we don’t want that for sure. Lifestyle centers are a big joke as far as i’m concerned.

  3. This particular property is now under pressure from another side which could turn out to be more damaging than Devimco. Just walk to the side walk and turn around (facing south). Shift your camera angle just a bit to the left so that you can take in Dalhousie Street (to the dead end) and try to imagine, a tunnel under the track, and 1400 buses driving up and down beside this building every day. The Lowney people arent too happy about this either.

  4. “why do city planners keep insisting that it can work”

    Money changed hands, it’s the only explanation that makes sense.

  5. Canada Lands at Ottawa Street

    The purpose of this brief is to question the need for mega projects in the Griffintown area and to offer affordable alternatives. My name is Harvey Lev and I am a long time (over 40 year business resident of this neighbourhood. The neighbourhood has a long history dating back to Montreal’s settlement. The area we know as Griffintown was born in intrigue and a land scandal It became home to many of the refugees of a harsh world and was the doorway to what became industrial Canada. The site of the proposed project is along the shores of the Lachine canal, the birthplace of Canadian industry and is recognized as an historical heritage park under the control of Parks Canada
    The issues

    At the moment there are 3 mega projects on the table.
    The Canada Lands project with a construction period of up to 12 years.
    The now uncertain Devimco projects which have already been on the table for 4 years, where all development of properties by their rightful owners within the project area were frozen by the Ville de Montreal. We were not allowed to lease out our properties or to carry out meaningful repairs or improvements. During this time not one shovelful dug or any properties purchased by Devimco or , for infrastructure or for a tram and now that project is forcasted with another minimum 10 year construction schedule.
    The the Cite du Havre project to demolish the Bonaventure Autoroute and construct high density housing along Nazareth and Duke streets, a project with a building schedule lasting into 2025 with a planned bus corridor that is estimated to run 1400 buses per day through the suburban streets of Griffintown.
    As well as a number of medium size projects such as the Lowney’s high density buildings that are in the middle of construction and a new project for a high density condo project at the corner of de la Montagne and Ottawa street which has been submitted to city hall for permits. All this construction in one small area is and has been making the area uninhabitable for the existing citizens who should have some right to peaceable enjoyment of their properties etc.
    It seems that the length of time to completion is really out of whack. Jean Drapeau built Expo and the Metro simultaneously in much less time and both these projects were significantly more ambitious.

    The commission should be aware that the vast majority of land owners have been in the area for a generation or more. Most of us have built our small business’s and raised our families in relative peace and prosperity and helped to sustain the rich Montreal Economy. Some larger firms employed hundred’s while the rest of us employed dozens. The city encouraged the area to depopulate through zoning regulations and wilful neglect.
    The need for high density construction is questionable. Montreal lost 25,000 residents in the last year. This coupled with the extensive construction boom in the city for condos and housing has all but saturated the market place. Devimco, Canada Lands, Cite du havre and the other high density projects already in construction and in planning for the Griffintown area exceed 12,000 units and this does not take into account all the many other projects around the core of Montreal.
    At the moment the site is bounded by the canal to the southwest, a dog park to the east, a 240,000 square foot bus garage complex to the north and the derelict Lucky Luke horse barns and a somewhat neglected industrial building to the west, where the Reso’s Auberge is to be built.

    Building these projects as is will mean that the area will be over constructed for many years and that the surrounding 75% approx 9-10 million sq, feet will lie fallow leaving the sector with intermittant rich sites set amongst slums, hardly a good initiative.
    The nearest Metro station is probably Lucien L’Allier at least a kilometre away. The proposed tram along Peel street is also approx. a kilometre away depending on which side of the site you are standing on and at least for the moment it is on hold as Devimco was supposed to pay for 35% of the tramway and is in default of it’s commitment to the city . Poor public transit means more cars, not less. With no infrastructure to handle the traffic which is already a daily problem during evening rush hour this will cause unbearable traffic turmoil. This turmoil will increase dramatically when the Bonaventure demolition starts. Work is supposed to commence this spring. The highway will be replaced with a boulevard which by it’s very nature will carry traffic in a slower manner. The traffic turmoil from the construction alone is scheduled to last until 2025. That is fifteen years before we will get back to a system that is capable of moving less cars than the existing highway. The Wellington bridge across the canal is 2 lanes wide and there are no other entrances or exits to the neighbourhood other than Notre Dame street which is a small commercial and residential street and is over trafficked on an on going basis.
    Ottawa Street as well is the main conduit for the horse caleches on their way to Vieux Montreal and William Street is their route to return to the various stables along the way. How will the increased traffic affect this?
    Montreal is a winter city so bicycles are a sweet idea but rather impractical as a solution.
    There are few major thoroughfares to allow for traffic flow as the site is bounded on 3 sides by obstacles.


    The site has belonged in one form or another to the government of Canada or one of various crown corporations for many year and as such really belongs to us.

    The Canada post building is the only large building in Griffintown that is in top condition. It is a red brick single story building approx 25 years old with solar panels and it is surrounded by real green space which has become a defacto park to all of us in the vicinity, The idea of demolishing the building is a huge waste of public money.

    The definition of demolishing something according to sustainable development standards is Orwellian doublespeak and is a misrepresentation of the process.


    With a minimum of investment the blue metal siding could be replaced with red brick and the building would fit into the historical architectural heritage of the site
    There is more than 12 million square feet of parking lots and underutilised or abandoned industrial buildings in the vicinity, even if Devimco and Canada post go ahead, this will leave 9 million square feet in this situation, hard to imagine selling high end condos in this situation, with a view over a derelict neighbourhood. and the necessity of government financed high density housing. Does Montreal really want or need any more Stalinist style housing as the True North- Jardins Windsor high density project that runs along Notre Dame between Peel and de la Montagne which by their very nature are not conducive for creating neighbourhoods, but seem instead to be places where the inhabitants do not use the streets around them for anything other than access to a parking garage.

    history & heritage
    The Lachine Canal has an architectural heritage of red brick industrial buildings and once of sheds. I believe that no-one really wants to put the sheds back, but most of the new construction along the canal has respected the low rise and red brick industrial heritage.
    While the concept of returning the 4 basins to their geographical state would be ideal, it is quite clear from the previous hearings that this would be both very expensive and technically very difficult if at all possible. The fact that the Peel street basin has been restored and re-opened and has lain not utilized since the work was completed 5 or 6 years ago and the existing sections of basins on the south side of the canal at Corticelli and Redpath give a clear understanding of the historical nature and original uses. It seems that a full restoration of the 4 smaller basins on the site would not be necessary, after all it is not possible to re-create the canal with it’s original industries and with the boats and wharves that once were all along it’s route.
    There is and never has been a history of 20 story buildings along the park or anywhere else in the vicinity. (other than the True North- Jardins Windsor). The construction will change the skyline, through shadow and remove light and suburbanise the entire nature of the canal.

    potential uses

    1) housing for seniors
    One possible use could be affordable housing for seniors etc. built into the perimeter of the entire existing building. A 3rd floor could be added to the perimeter to increase the density. A community centre with a few restaurants, maybe a cinema and library and facilities for recreation i.e art classes, a gym dedicated to their needs could complete the use of the interior of the building. This would allow for outdoor access in a park setting during the nice months as well as access to facilities during the winter months . The surrounding land could be used as a sculpture park and for public walking spaces. The integration of seniors with the everyday younger users of the canal would add to the quality of life and place.

    The area should be developed with the whole in mind. All construction should be designed to encourage the entire sector to be redeveloped. The Canada Post, and other projects as they stand will create islands of prosperity amidst the ruins of a much larger neighbourhood of neglected industrial buildings and vacant parking lots, while removing one of the few brighter and greener space of the Canada Lands property. At the same time the new residents will not feel as if they live in a nice neighbourhood and will feel insecure in walking about. They will then use their cars to take them to more friendly environments to do their shopping and their entertainment. This basically will cause urban ghetto and will in the end serve no one other than a few developers who claim that they can only make money through density.
    The city has proof of this, one only has to look at the streets surrounding St.Laurent and Mount Royal or the area along St. Catherine going east from Berri to Papineau. Both these areas are considered international success and have radically improved the lives of the citizens who live in the vicinity. Areas like Point St. Charles or St Henri are now being re-vitalized in the same manner and have become desired neighbourhoods, something unheard of 10 years ago.
    All of these areas were in serious decline in recent history. The emigration has been reversed and they have become desired places to live.

    2) This is an idea I proposed earlier this year to Canada Lands for the site, which was met with some enthusiasm from the head office and which was later presented to Mr Cavis and Mr Sylvester.

  6. Firedup: Oh non! Dites-moi pas qu’il y a des «nimbyes» à Montréal!!!!

  7. Great News. Hopefully we’ll see a la carte development projects that will be far more appropriate for the neighborhood. Great neighborhoods and communities are organic creations that happen over time and consist of a good mix of retail/commerce that targets first the immediate population’s needs and then outsiders.

  8. This is good news for municipal governance and for the development of Montreal. Of course the prudent course of action now would be for the city to scrap the Devimco PPU and start over. As most of the opponents of Project Griffintown have pointed out, the area needs to be developed, but the development has to be reasonable and it has to serve citizens first.

    I, for one, am glad ol’ Serge can still make money in Brossard. Phew!

  9. Good riddance, though I never believed that this project would actually see the light of day. The most grandiose development, announced at the absolute peak of the market, never does.

  10. Oh yes, plese let Griffintown develop organically as it has been doing in the last 40-50 years. Maybe in a few milleniums total population will have doubled from 47 to a 100.

  11. À Samir,

    Il me semble que la raison pour laquelle Griffintown s’est si peu développé, c’est parce qu’il était en grande partie zoné industriel (Est-ce que je me trompe?). Il suffirait de changer le zonage et ce serait déjà un changement qui amènerait le développement plus rapidement ET organiquement. Je préfére attendre et y trouver un quartier vivant et «vrai» plutôt que de me retrouver tout de suite avec un machin «lifestyle centeresque».

  12. Garry: Je suis d’accord que le zonage n’aide pas. Mais s’il y avait un véritable intérêt d’un développeur résidentiel (comme c’était le cas pour Devimco), il se serait passé quand même quelque chose… on parle quand même de 40+ ans pour accorder des exceptions au zonage à un développeur… C’est quand même pas charié ce que je disais dans mon commentaire.

    Le développement organique ne fonctionnera pas pour Griffintown tant que la ville ne refaira pas les rues, trotoires, ne met pas d’argent dans des parcs et fournit un service d’autobus intéressant… ce qui me semble être les fonctions de bases qu’une ville saine devrait fournir… ce que Devimco demande après tout n’est pas si fou.

  13. A “dix-trente” style project would have killed downtown businesses, the way Wal-Marts kill the cores of smaller cities (St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu’s abandoned “Vieux St-Jean” comes to mind…)

  14. That’s a developer’s idealized projection. And it is disingenuous: the distant perspective does not, for example, reveal how those inordinately high buildings both block the mountain and wall in the “neighbourhood.”

    The Devimco project had very little going for it besides a misguided and greedy city administration.

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