24 comments

  1. Ils devraient aussi se débarrasser du stationnement hideux autour de la place de crème glacé juste à cöté ! C’est un méchant trou dans la continuité de Ste-Catherine.

  2. The paradox:

    sustainable development vs development must be sustained (at any cost).

    I worry most about the cost to to city’s character.

    One of the reasons that Montreal still has charm and appeal is we didn’t raze the city to “rebuild” it in a (dubiously) better way.

    This bulldozing of the lower main rips out another part of the heart of the city.

    There is no reason or justification for this destruction. Tax revenue and payoffs to politicians and parties are not a good enough justification in my opinion.

  3. If this is intended to be an office annex to the hydro-québec tower, why not build it on the other side of rue clark? As it stands their tower is facing réné-lévesque but the rest of the vast block behind it seems inefficiently used at best. Rue clark is no institution; why should the main lose some of its best and worst leaving just the average while across the street sits a giant gap?

  4. Nice piece, although it’s very much worth pointing out some facts that affect any consideration of the project or validity of their arguments:

    1. It’s a ridiculously tiny block and much larger vacant lots surround the area, including right behind and diagonally across from the current Hydro-Quebec building. Any of these other lots would allow for more density with less height, more flexibility in design, more possibility of mixing in atriums and open space etc.

    2. The dream of having thriving eco-businesses both on St-Laurent and Clark is probably total bull, most likely there will just be a food court/ interior eco-mall. They even mentioned that some of the businesses serving the same employees that will be moved here from Place Dupuis near Berri Metro (where the negative impact of all that new vacancy is never mentioned) will follow them here. I’m betting on a food court because it’s borderline impossible to imagine viable street-level businesses that are about one third the size of, say, Montreal Poolroom. After the considerable structural and service needs, elevators shafts, stairways etc. are factored in, a food court with common dining areas is almost the only way to fit businesses in the remaining space. A sober look at the sections and plans (some posted in my comment on the 2 – 22 thread), which underexaggerate space taken up by service and structural elements, renders most of their fanciful elevations unfeasible.

    3. The heritage impact is hard to exaggerate. It’s a federally classified heritage street, of which THAT BLOCK is the most important outside of Old Montreal. More than 200 years of history are behind the block, almost all of which included nightlife and import-export shops (given the proximity to the port), which would come to a final end with this development. This is where “the Main” got its name because the street led to “the main gate” when Montreal was a walled city in the 1600s-1700s. The city’s own heritage board and Heritage Montreal steadfastly oppose ANY demolition of ANY facades, given the mix of styles from the late 1800s to the Art Deco era that are on it. Sadly this administration is figuring out how to throw out or skirt some of the highest heritage protections, from local to provincial to federal, to carry this out.

    4. As far as urban planning issues, they claim this will “add to the mix” of the area by putting more offices in the Quartier des Spectacles. None of the neighboring bars or concert venues agree — they would all prefer to see more cultural vocation to the street, rather than wiping out the 4 active nightspots and replacing them with offices empty out every evening. More residential, not office, construction is what would truly help.

    5. Not mentioned in the official documents or other media reports (I had limited space and info when I wrote that mirror piece! would have loved to include the photo that is here!) is that there will be no bars or concert venues in the new block, by design. Given the insane space constraints I mentioned above, this isn’t surprising anyway, but it is still a zoning change that breaks with 200 years of the block’s character. Ultimately the photo above makes it clear that this is about fitting in with Complexe Desjardins and the current Hydro-Quebec tower, and eventually moving the office district even further east. The east side of the block from Club Soda to SAT is certainly doomed to eventual demolition after this. It already sticks

  5. … out as a teeny weeny misfit hemmed in by taller buildings on all sides in any of the views of this project. This is the exact opposite of what was planned for this area just last year in the PPU (plan particulier d’urbanisme), but this city never met a zoning or heritage plan it didn’t mind breaking.

    6. The more disconcerting theories about this sudden hasty project involve matching anglophone Montreal’s new office projects slated around Atwater (like the Seville developments) with a new francophone office project, just like Complexe Desjardins was a francophone reaction against Place Ville Marie in the 60s. I think there are a variety of reasons why this is proposed for that site but mainly it involves the usual combination of backroom dealings, a city administration willing to trash any and all pretense to reasoned urban planning, and Hydro-Quebec’s desire to counter the growing protest movement against their new hydroelectric projects wiping out the last major rivers of northern Quebec by building a LEED building full of eco-goodies.

    7. That block was indeed starting to regenerate itself, and most of the grime and low-end bars have already moved further east along Ste. Catherine St. The fact that businesses and residents of 6 of the 10 buildings have been kicked out could still make for an opportunity to properly renovate and relaunch the block in a more organic way, as it has since the block was demolished to widen St. Laurent in the 1890s. But that will depend whether public sentiment grows against it and whether the various heritage bodies can trump the administration’s (and Hydro-Quebec’s) backroom pacts.

    Sorry about the long rant… I love the comment above about how great this would be next to L’Acadie metro. You can clearly see some of the other great sites for this in the photo above… such a shame they didn’t pick an empty lot for this, I think everyone would be excited about it and the LEED aspect etc. if they had done that instead.

  6. L’hypothèse que ce projet soit, ne serait-ce qu’en partie, une réponse de l’élite francophone à de quelconques développements “anglophones” du côté d’Atwater est franchement ridicule. Il y a suffisamment de problèmes avec cette proposition d’Hydro-Québec sans en rajouter.

  7. I like point number 3. It’s the fucking MAIN for crying out loud. Such a total disregard for the history of the street is disturbing. This should be one of the most hotly debated projects ever, but it seems most people will just sheepishly go along with it cause it will rid the city of such horrible things such as hookers and other street people stereotypes. You would be surprised how widespread amongst our good old middle class are traditional moralists who could never, ever bring themselves to defend such an area. Hypocrisy? Perhaps to some extent, but it s more about fear and a severe lack of information. The generations of Montrealers who started out somewhere near The Main deserve something a whole lot better than these proposals. Couche Tard and food fairs indeed!

  8. Remember the house made of polished stone (I called it the “tombstone house”) on the south side of Côte-Vertu, in St-Laurent, right next of the railroad tracks?

    Some 25 years ago, the city of St-Laurent wanted to expropriate it to give it to a private developper. The case went all the way to the supreme court who declared that the expropriation power cannot be used for the benefit of a private party.

    (Now a condo building stands on the site).

    The city may want to check that before proceeding with expropriation…

  9. ^^^je suis complêtement d’accord — je me rappelle pas de la référence exacte que j’ai vû à cet effet quelque part en ligne mais ca vaut pas la peine de lui citer, même comme mauvaise exemple. Je n’aura même pas dû attirer attention à ça dans mon commentaire, désolé. Comme t’a dit, c’est pas comme si il n y a pas assez de problêmes avec cette proposition…

  10. Hydro Quebec owns this province and don’t you forget it! All bow down before me!

    Hey, why aren’t you all bowing?

    Hello? Hello?

    Hmmm, maybe we should rethink this project?

    Naaaw.

    Seriously, Louis raises some good points, like, how come Hydro and the city don’t follow the urban planning principles of the city of Montreal?

  11. The developers are not interested in having any hot dog places . its beneath them at the meeting they mentioned they weanted to have chic bistros and ethical cafes etc. booooooooooooooooorring

  12. When there’s a will, there’s a way and, as was stated in a recent press release issued by the business owners of the “main”, there’s a definite need to revive the area.

    Since 2004, over 300 individual artists and fashion designers have performed at Cabaret Cleo, the second floor.

    They come from all walks of life. Street performers, burlesque dancers, writers, film-makers, fund-raising events & more…

    The upstairs Cabaret Cleo certainly provides these self-financed artists a chance to be, a place to practice, refine, develop, a place of true self-expression and a devout audience.

    This would’ve been impossible without the generosity and help of Café Cleopatra owner John Zoomboulakis.

    Over the last 5 years I have produced 63 events, more than 125 individual shows featuring over 200 local performers with an average of 150 attendees every month.

    Now, the newly formed Coalition des Artistes du Cabaret Cleo wishes to bring their creativity in support of SDA & Ville de Montréal in their quest to revive the area.

    Our goal is to achieve an honest, moral and social, balance between the economic reality of “financing” the revitalization of the area and its designated vocation of Quartier des Spectacles all the while maintaining the colorfulness of the “Main”

    Impossible you say? I think not.

    Together, we are the artists and architects of a better tomorrow.

    Together we can shape a grand future for our beloved “Main” in harmony of those who were, are and will be a part of the dream.

    The world always need dreamers of life and builders of dreams

    “All we are saying is give peace a chance”

    John Lennon / Yoko Ono (Montreal 1969)

  13. Frankly I think the project looks great. If any serious developments are ever going to take shape there the place needs to be cleaned out first, no respectable company will rent office space next to a sex shop or stripper place, you need people with money to relaunch a neighborhood. If anyone here thinks that the owners of the buildings give a damn about the “historical” value of their properties are incredibly naive. All they are doing is waiting out for a higher offer. They are business owners first and having a place downtown is going to be better for business then some place on Papineau for example where tourists won’t venture out to. Secondly the city will reap in higher tax revenues once this gets built so it’s a win-win for all involved. This project needs to get done as soon as possible!

  14. Have you walked around that area recently Jack? First of all the real grime of strip bars etc. is just further east, and will get much worse once Hydro vacates their offices near Berri métro because of this project. There is only one “undesirable” bar left on that block, and upstairs they have one of the most active community spaces for cultural events in that area (see Eric’s post above.)

    The area east of that block is zoned for a mix of commercial and residential construction, not office high-rises, so your point about attracting office rentals is irrelevant. In any case, new office tower projects have been on the table for years for the Quartier Internationale near Old Montreal but are on hold until demand for such space increases (same for the vacant lot where the Spectrum was.) One such tower near Square Victoria was about to get built in the 90s until the govt stole away tenants with the subsidized E-Commerce Place.

    This project will have a similar effect by creating lots of vacancy at Place Dupuis after H-Q vacates it, so in fact it will discourage rather than encourage new office development in the area.

    Never mind your argument against its historical value; for business reasons alone, this project should be rejected for the negative effect it will have on future development in the area.

    If you want to talk about development, there are huge empty lots all around that block, better suited to an office complex and requiring no scrapping of zoning or heritage laws! Those lots have been empty for 25 to 50 years, and I’m sick of seeing building booms come and go that demolish heritage buildings but PRESERVE EMPTY LOTS! It would be nice if people like you were as annoyed by such decrepitude as you appear to be about people who oppose demolishing federally classified heritage buildings.

    As for the half of the block not yet expropriated, if you go to Club Soda or the SAT across the street you can see what could come of these decrepit buildings with the right subsidies and initiatives. If you visited cities like Chicago, San Francisco or New Orleans you’d see that we are leagues behind them for preserving our past while encouraging forward-looking development AND raising the property tax base. People actually BUILD THINGS in those cities without always first razing whole areas, shutting down thriving businesses or breaking all the zoning laws– sounds crazy but it’s true.

    All to say, the claim that nostalgic heritage nuts are keeping people from building projects here is totally naive and misinformed.
    ___

    On a different but related note, one of the businesses of the area that I spoke to regarding this project raised an important point: in a couple of years the lease on the social housing complex just east of St. Laurent métro along de Maisonneuve is expiring. There’s a good case to be made to hold off on this current very sudden office complex project and begin discussing what sort of housing should remain (or replace) that large complex. The person I spoke with is on the board of the area’s merchant association (Faubourg St-Laurent) and believe me, none of them are happy to have Hydro-Quebec come marching in with a tower and hundreds of new parking spots without any consideration for the wider area’s immediate future. There’s something called “urban planning” that could really help with all of this but as usual it’s considered a frivolous extravagance in this corrupt “anything goes” city…

  15. If the property owners really want to build it, they should buy the properties themselves. Don’t make the city do the dirty work for you!

  16. Tonight’s the first big night of consultations about the Quadrilatère project. Last night’s regarding the 2 – 22 saw a surprising amount of criticism given how better received that building was initially.

    The main objection by Club Soda and the local business development agency, aside from not having been consulted for the original planning of this project, is the huge increase in office density this will bring to the neighborhood. They very much want the promoter to do what the zoning committee already asked of him, which is lower the 2 – 22 project from 8 stories to 6 (which is the zoning limit set just last year in the urban plan and which would harmonize with the 6-storey building corner St-Dominique). However, the promoter said today that if they ask him to drop 2 storeys he’ll simply leave the lot vacant.

    Combined with 12 stories across the street, the local business organization’s concerns are that the same fate will hit Club Soda, SAT, Metropolis and Foufs as hit the Spectrum, which lost its viability following property tax increases resulting from the Quartier des Spectacles and related developments. They also point out that it will be difficult if not impossible to build viable new cultural spaces and venues in the area moving forward, if the economics change so that only office towers or condo high-rises are viable.

    Combined with the 4 venues set to be demolished for the Quadrilatere, the Quartier des Spectacles project may ironically wipe out most of the current concert district…

    At least the solution is very simple — 6 storeys for the 2 – 22, and moving the Hydro-Québec tower onto their current parking lot or on one of those across the street on René-Levesque. The promoter should be asked to come back with a 4 to 6 storey mixed-use development for the 6 vacant buildings on Saint-Laurent purchased for the Hydro Quebec complex. If the promoter doesn’t like it, well, they should give that land to one who respects the fact they’re being given tax money to do this …

  17. I just got back from the public consultation on the proposed Quadrilatère project. It was extremely difficult to listen carefully to the thoughtful and articulate commentaries on the project (some for, but many against) as the people in the row directly behind me continued to talk very loudly amongst themselves throughout the proceedings, often ridiculing the speakers who were presenting critiques of the project.

    As the chatter and snide comments reached a completely intolerable level during Louis Rastelli’s presentation, I finally could not take anymore and asked the people behind me for “un peu de politesse SVP.” The man behind me (whose partner in disruptive chattering was Theatre du Noveau Monde director Lorraine Pintal) became very aggressive and said something to the effect of “I’m not polite towards falsities.” The pair continued to speak over and ridicule the remaining presentations throughout the evening. It was only at the break that I realized that this completely disrespectful man was actually Angus Development president Christian Yaccarini.

    Although I can’t say I’m surprised that Yaccarini is not a major supporter of an open forum for the critique of his development project (I’m sure he’d be happy if such measures did not exist at all), I was a bit taken aback at this public demonstration of his complete disdain for the consultation process and his clear aggression towards anyone who expressed reservations towards the current plan. I came to the evening with some questions about the project and with a fairly open mind, but this kind of carry on is completely absurd. He was, quite frankly, behaving like a spoiled 12 year old, which doesn’t bode well for the integrity of the development project or the hopes for a thoughtful and well considered approach to the complex requirements of this site.

  18. Anyone else feel like Le Devoir and The Gazette are white washing their coverage of these developments? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think both papers ran articles after the Monday night public consulation for the 2-22 building, but nothing after the Tuesday night Quadrilatère consultation. Everyone knew that the Quadrilatère consultation would be the most contentious one with far more public outcry expressed. By running coverage of only the Monday night session, the papers effectively reported an “everything’s a okay” message on the entire development project.

    I think anyone who is concerned should write letters to these papers and pressure them to report the strong objection to the Quadrilatère project. My personal opinion is that we need a design competition around this development to generate some better ideas.

  19. For those who couldn’t hear all the presentations because of the childish yapping of the promoters, here are the links to the transcripts of some of the presentations that were made:

    http://www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/ocpm/pdf/P38/7d.pdf
    http://www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/ocpm/pdf/P38/7e.pdf

    The evening of June 11, which featured Heritage Montreal’s presentation, is not on the site yet. For all the other documentation and downloadable written memoirs submitted by citizens, go to this page:

    http://www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/ldvdm/jsp/ocpm/ocpm.jsp?laPage=projet38.jsp

    At the end of the consultations I spoke with one of the heads of the consultation bodies, who said they have rarely if ever received so many well-researched and well-formulated memoirs concerning a proposal. Nearly every single person who submitted a memoir has credentials in architecture, urban planning, is head of a local business or arts organization (or in one case head of the faculty of architecture at U of M) and so on. It’s fitting that a project that would so drastically alter one of the most historic blocks in the city would receive this sort of informed reaction. For my money, you won’t find as much passionate and interesting commentary on Montreal architecture, planning and heritage issues on the web as you will in the wealth of memoirs regarding this project.

    Members of the consultation body also told me is that Christian Yaccarini’s press release, issued between the 2 days of consultations on the Quadrilatère project, was unprecedented. They’ve never seen a promoter publicly criticize citizens and organizations right in the middle of consultations, in some cases before the individuals even presented their opinions. “It doesn’t help build support,” as one put it. However, the support may be present where it counts most– Yaccarini is rumoured to be lunching with Mayor Tremblay of late (itself ethically inappropriate, if true). The similar wording found in both Tremblay’s recent diatribes against all criticism and Yaccarini’s press release certainly implies a tight bond between the two men.

    Even though the city’s zoning commission and heritage body have already recommended further revisions to this and the 2 – 22 project, and this consultation body (if it does its job) will report some very pointed and detailed recommendations against the project in its present form, Mayor Tremblay is implying that this and other controversial projects will go ahead regardless (http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/fp/Tremblay%20vows%20pave%20urban%20developers/1696689/story.html).

    Whether all the city councillors who are up for re-election will vote accordingly in late August remains to be seen. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the provincial and federal heritage bodies (who seperately must evaluate and approve any proposal for that block) will issue approvals. The project could very well end up like the Rialto Theatre fiasco in the 90s, when Mayor Bourque gave the owner all the exemptions to heritage and zoning laws he wanted, only to have the province refuse to approve the building’s new vocation after it was gutted.

    Personally, I find the fact that such consultations occur at the very end of the approval process ensures that input by citizens naturally must be either superficial (commenting on the color of bricks used or what have you) or entirely negative (back to the drawing board). The heads of the consultation body reaffirmed to me that they asked in 2008 to change the process for major projects to address this problem — they suggested that public consultations take place twice, once when the project’s mandate is announced (before any detailed proposal for a specific building is developed, i.e. “we want your ideas on how to revitalize this block and wider area”) and once after detailed plans for a building are ready. The mayor rejected their proposal out of hand. Sadly, Tremblay now seems to agree with previous mayor Bourque’s assertion that the mayor is the “père de famille” (translates roughly to “Father knows best”) and as such should just be trusted to carry out whatever is good for the city.

    Re: the 2 – 22 project, one of the presenters astutely pointed out that the real reason nearly every developer asks the city for permission to surpass zoning regulations by 2 storeys or more is because the top floors of office buildings (of which the 2 – 22 is one, after all) are always the first to be rented and rent at the highest price. If a developer can brag to potential tenants that they received a special exemption to build higher than anyone else nearby is allowed to build, it gives them an advantage over their competition.

    This point is especially pertinent because most of the public seems baffled as to why any downtown building project should have its height restricted. Why say no to a developer who’s willing to invest more, build more, raise the tax base etc?? Well, because obviously if you let one guy get 2 extra floors, the next guy will want 4 extra floors, and so on. Once you start granting exemptions, every new developer will expect one. If you hold fast to the urban plan (which for that area was only just developed last year), developers will deal with it if they know that the same rules apply to everyone. If you don’t, you can expect that every single project proposed in the future will try to break all the rules in place.

    If only because of the precedent this would set, I think it’s important not to allow a zoning exemption for the 2 – 22. Otherwise, instead of any semblance of urban planning, development in the city will be guided by promoters who childishly say to the city “But you gave that guy an exemption! I want one too!”

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