St Lawrence and Ste Catherine street, 1905. Source: Mccord Museum.
“We have to move forward,” said Catherine Sévigny, the executive committee member responsible for culture, about the committee’s decision to give the Quadrilatère Saint-Laurent the green light last Thursday (La Presse). “This is the end of what some call ‘immobility’ on these projects.”
Yet it was only last month that the Office de consultation publique de Montréal called for this developper to “slow down”on this project. The OCPM report sent the developer back to the drawing board to rethink project’s treatment of a National historic site and the relevance of the building’s proposed usage – mostly office space – within the performing arts district.
In the world of real-estate sales and concrete-pouring, a public consultation process may indeed seem like inaction. But it is meant to ensure that our city’s rules regarding urban planning and heritage preservation are only bent when the outcome is seen as positive and relevant by those who will be touched by the development.
Unfortunately, the executive committee’s decision only re-inforces the perception that public consultation does nothing but uselessly stall development. What is the point of a lengthy consultation process if the recommendations are going to be ignored once again?
“Je suis surprise de voir le projet adopté par le comité exécutif alors qu’aucun nouveau plan ou proposition architecturale n’ont été resoumis,” said Phyllis Lambert, fonder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture.
Lambert joined forces with Culture Montréal, Héritage Montréal, Club Soda, and Le Monument-National to criticize the city’s dismissiveness towards their own democratic consultation process in a press release yesterday.
The city claims that the development agreement signed with the SDA responds to some of the concerns raised during the public consultation.
On Boul Saint-Laurent, the Quadrilatère’s architecture must be modified to preserve the volume as well as the facades of the historic buildings. Commercial activities on two stories should animate the Main into the evening (although it seems there will still be no place for night-life and no show-spaces to replace the 4 venues will be lost).
The city and the promoter have also promised to work together in restoring desolate Clark street. They will favour the establishment of “emerging” businesses and social economy along Clark. (But does that mean chain stores for the bulk of the Quadrilatère?).
Despite the changes that must be drawn into the plans to meet the city’s conditions, the city reiterated that the project will be completed in 3 years, a timeline that the OCPM has called hasty and unrealistic.
The city’s press release also confirms that existing businesses that have been established for decades within this heritage site could be expropriated if they refuse to accept the SDA’s offers.
Image: Clark street, which has long been the “butt-end” of Saint-Laurent’s businesses, is to receive badly-needed attention from the city and the developer.
Many comments on this blog have noted that the Lower Main is sorely in need of investment and the photo above certainly highlights the point. Yet after decades of neglect, why rush to embrace the first half-baked proposition that comes to the table? With the crystallization of the Quartier des Spectacles and plenty of new arts-oriented development already changing the character of the neighbourhood, new life is on the way in. The executive committee has also approved the SDA’s Édifice Le Parallèle, a cultural centre which will be built atop the Saint-Laurent metro exit.
Is the Quadrilatère really the only chance we’ll get for this legendary strip of the Main?