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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Devimco’s New Griffintown Scheme: “District Griffin”

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Devimco, the embattled developer with big plans for the forlorn neighbourhood of Griffintown, south of Downtown, have finally unveiled their new, albeit considerably scaled-down plan for four new high-rise residential buildings, which they are now calling “District Griffin”.

The four buildings will be primarily residential with three condo buildings and one mixed 150 room, 3 star hotel/office building.  Stores will be located on the bottom floor but potential tenants and sizes remain to be seen.  The buildings will front rue Smith and will be bordered by Wellington to the north and west, and Shannon to the east.  Currently, this area is mostly parking lots and warehouse buildings so this phase will see limited demolition which was one of the biggest concerns with the previous plans which encompassed a much larger portion of the neighbourhood.

Building heights won’t differ too much from previous plans with the hotel slated for 12 storeys and the residential buildings to be built as tall as 19 storeys.  Condos will come with 1 to 3 bedrooms at prices ranging from $250 000 to $750 000 per unit.

Information on the actual design of the buildings has been scant with a couple generic night-time mockups on their website and the vague map above being pretty much all that has been presented by the developer.  As was the case with Devimco’s previous plans, it is unlikely that they intend for the final product to correspond with any of their preliminary marketing or mock-ups.

However, Devimco’s greenwashing tactics and pandering to opponents seem to have been sharpened since 2007 when they came into Griffintown, guns blazing, not expecting citizen opposition or, as it seemed, the fact that there were actually residents living in the area.  They now plan to build 275 social housing units and another 206 affordable units (8% more than is required by the Sud-Ouest borough) which will be built off-site and sometime in the future, while also planning to give $25 000 to maison Saint-Gabriel, a history museum in Pointe-St-Charles.  Hopes to get condo buyers out of their cars apparently comes with their plan to give free bicycles to condo buyers and providing parking spaces for Communauto (a now standard practice for any new development in the city).  Devimico is also still pushing hard for the tramway, taunting Richard Bergeron about it at yesterday’s announcement of the project (nothing has been said of Devimco’s previous pledge of $10 million to the city to help build the tramway).

Construction is expected to begin in the next three to four months costing $475 million.  Any additional phases planned for the future have not been announced as of yet.



  1. Very interesting, obviously much more reasonable than previous plans.

    Given that we can’t comment on any design elements, that just leaves the layout and massing, which i think is fine. It’s far enough out that it should not effect any sightlines and if they make the buildings as mixed use as they say they are, it could make for a decent space.

    Though the one thing that made me laugh was how they portrayed the rail tracks in the night picture, they look more like streetcar lines that “blend in” with the landscape, wheras in reality it will be anything but.

  2. Thank your for your article. If you have any questions or comments on our project, you can get in touch with us on Facebook ( and Twitter (@DistrictGriffin).

  3. There’s a lot of very strong criticism in the article – and yet you note that the details have not been finalized. In fact, most of what you report sounds pretty positive to me..?

  4. William: Most of my criticism comes from my past experiences with Devimco over the past three years having lived in Griffintown.  I’ve grown not to trust them.  Also, the fact that so few details have been given is also problematic, especially considering this project has been in the works for many years, they should be able to tell us considerably more than they are now.

    Christopher: all subsidized and affordable housing will be built at a later date and not in these four buildings.  I’m not sure if they’re going to be able to get away with that but the borough hasn’t given any opposition to it that I know of.

  5. since that site is so close to downtown, can obviously developed densely with excellent public transport nearby (metro, future tramway etc.) it would be a good place to impose a car prohibition for its dwellers.

    this would be a good chance for the city of montreal to show leadership instead of letting profits determine the way how we should live!

    for the sceptical: developments like this exist (in similar densely populated areas), work well, and provide lots of communal space for the money otherwise invested into (i.e. subterranean) parking spaces. i’ve visited one myself in vienna and it has a very special atmosphere due to its green spaces inside and around the buildings.

  6. It’s very easy to recommend they prohibit cars in the development.

    Attracting buyers for such a project would be a bit challenging.

    If you want to show leadership how about you gather a bunch of your car hating friends, buy some land close to downtown, then built the no car paradise there. Good luck with making your investment back.

    Owning a car and driving it every day are very different things. And driving it on a 40 km one way commute is a bit different from a 5 km commute.
    There is no need to prohibit cars. It will only make many people leave to more convenient places. But I guess Montreal should be familiar with the situation of thousands of families leaving to other places. A few thousand more will just make more room, right?

  7. andrei:

    the recent municipal elections in the nearby plateau have shown that there exists a majority which wants to reduce car traffic. besides, the majority of its residents to not own a car. my conclusion: there is indeed a market for a non-car development. do i need to mention there is a long waiting list for the viennese project?

    regarding your rather obvious trolling: planning and executing a project is the job of a developer.
    with regard to project griffintown we have already seen that only pressure from the public makes developers deviate from their ‘safe concept’ of what they believe people want.

    with the term leadership i referred to planning for the future (the lifetime of such a development, which is >= 1 generation), as opposed for a short-sighted quarterly profits term. this can be imposed most effectively by the city.

    less traffic = less pollution/danger = better quality of life in montreal

  8. sure, you don’t need a car if you live near stores and services, a neighbourhood characteristic which this project does NOT seem to have. Just my 2 cents.

  9. Hmm… not so sure it’s the ideal location for a car-free development… sure, it’s beside the canal which provides a logical barrier, but it’s overlooking the freeway, so hardly an attractive site for those who dislike cars enough to want to live without them close to their houses.

    I live car-free, but I must say that our parking spot in the back, disguised as a lawn of clover, is incredibly convenient when we have guests in town, when the mother-in-law comes in from PAT, and when I have massage clients that choose to drive here rather than take the métro.

    Besides, in the lifetime of these buildings, we’ll all be zipping around in non-polluting electric cars anyway.

    I still think it’s quite funny that people here complain about too many cars when if that’s your main complaint, we live in a relative paradise, at least compared to most cities in the world…

    – no culture of horn-honking
    – wide roads and lots of work already done to channel cars onto them and not onto the sidestreets
    – a freeway built underground through the downtown core
    – inner neighbourhoods with pleasant tree-lined streets with a good density surrounding the downtown core
    – topography that keeps the city relatively pollution free most of the time
    – alleyways for kids to play in
    – little parks and interesting streets and small blocks that Jane Jacobs would just love
    – a transit system that is efficient and well-used and covers a great deal of the city

    Any place can be made better of course, so go ahead and dream of car-free neighbourhoods if that makes you happy. But also take time to appreciate how well off we are compared to someone from, oh, Bangkok or Atlanta.

  10. I see no need for a tramway, the SLR to Brossard is supposed to pass right there.

  11. tristou: i understand you must be very proud of montreal, as compared to i.e. atlanta, bangkok. but try to see also what has been accomplished in many other cities (i.e. in europe). imho the advantage in montreal is that it has lots of potential in terms of space (now mostly used up for the automobile, unfortunately also many of those great alleys).

    for me personally, montreal has more traffic, is more polluted than many other cities i know. for public transit here: i almost never use it because it is slower than my bicycle where i need to go.

    the problem with freeways in other cities has been solved as follows: either they are overbuilt (what they are beginning to discuss for the 20), generating very valuable central space for high-density buildings or isolated by anti-noise/pollution walls (10-20m high), i.e. including solar panels, and trees

    increasing density and reducing traffic is a chicken-egg problem: this is why here is the chance of getting out of that loop by building high-density developments with mixed-use residential/commercial, which are also connected well by public transport to the center.

    as for non-polluting electric cars: i do not see how processing the minerals for all those heavy batteries is non-polluting (or can every generate enough of them to replace all gas-powered cars). electricity pollutes as well (hydro energy can not be exploited well in most countries).

    a development code can include providing for a certain amount of commercial spaces. high-density living will provide a demand for depanneurs/grocery stores. if a tramway/light rail connects the development to downtown, in let’s say 5 or 10 minutes, not that many services are needed locally (see the car-free development in freiburg/germany)

    in this car-free district freiburg, people can actually park a car outside in a garage but have to pay $40.000 for the space. this happens to equal the cost of a 3×6 metre piece of ground (street parking space) in montreal. now either subtract this from the cost of the apartments or use it to build some communal spaces :-)

    what is happening in griffintown is that we allow a handful of people stuck in last-century thinking decide the future, in the name of short-term profits. this is where the city must show leadership!

  12. Vienna’s car free housing project “Autofreie Mustersiedlung” was started in 1996 – completed in 2000. And since then, they have not built another car free housing project.
    This project will likely not have a 1:1 parking to condo ratio as most projects downtown don’t.

  13. Was there any mention in any of their development project literature or in articles as to which building materials Devimco will be using for this project?

    Predominantly steel and concrete?

    I’ve noticed lately that proposed projects show models of what the structures will look like once built, but the details are always quite vague as to what building materials will be used.

    How many trees will Devimco be planting to offset their environmental footprint?

    Will they be integrating green roofs into the project, considering it does nothing but add value to the buildings and is a negligible cost per square foot for new developments of this magnitude?

    Are there any power saving measures? Geothermal energy? Solar panels? Wind turbines?

    Who is the chief architect of the project?

    What is the estimated cost of the project?

    Development companies should be required to publicize their project estimates and labour/material breakdowns when projects of this size are being proposed in a city with such a large population. Open book policy. Someone with a substantial amount of political clout, courage, and integrity should force corporations to publicize their financial records for public scrutiny.

    If Revenue Canada and Revenu Quebec don’t have the manpower to personally audit financial records for the thousands of companies and corporations in Canada and Quebec, then I am absolutely sure the public will gladly take it upon themselves to audit corporate books.

    Economic terrorism. Needs to stop NOW.

  14. Niomi is asking the right questions.

    Also, let’s call it like we see it: the proposal is UGLY UGLY UGLY. More harshly clad highrises. Big deal. Not only that, they completely block the waterfront. It is a complete affront to what exists there already. I suppose “organic development” means nothing to business men in cheap suits.

    Right now, this city should be doing nothing less than:
    – ensuring all new large-scale development is LEED compliant
    – ensuring that public housing makes up a significant proportion of the residential presence
    – minimizing car presence, traffic, dependency, etc.

    More than Devimco (modern day snake oil salesmen), I blame the city for not expecting more, demanding more, ensuring more.

    Oh and one last thing: what is the big darn deal about a tramway? What will that really change?

  15. Leila, the tramway would help minimize car presence and is zero emissions (the STM is still a number of years off from having a fleet of electric buses). Fixed transport routes, such as a tramway, have a way of encouraging additional development along their routes.

    Niomi: “How many trees will Devimco be planting to offset their environmental footprint?”

    Seriously? This is downtown Montréal. The city is more than welcome to plant them on the sidewalk but if every development needed to include trees, it’d be like living in Longueuil. There’s trees at the site of St. Anne’s, which it looks like they’ll be extending across Wellington street to add another sliver of park space.

  16. Between this plan and Devimco’s original one, I’m actually partial to the latter. At least the original scheme would’ve redeveloped a good chunk of Griffintown in one fell swoop. With this one, I’m afraid we’ll wind up with a strip of canal-side gentrification and not much of anything else. Like’s happened along so much of the canal already.

  17. I`m all for the redevelopment of Griffintown and what used to be Goose Village, even if it is by a single contractor or developer. That being said, Devimco has proven itself not only incapable of interesting design, but of fundamentally failing at sustainable architecture in the broadest sense of the term.
    Why this is I have no idea, but it seems particularly odd that such a large potential re-development would be without any legitimate attempt at award-winning design. In sum, it seems as though Devimco is really only interested in getting these buildings up as quickly as possible, without care or consideration to the surrounding area. It appears as if Devimco has decided to leave all the actual architectural and design work to the City of Montreal – and whether that is to be done before, during or after a new neighbourhood is put up is entirely unclear. I suppose the bigger question is: who are these people and is it really possible for locals to be this out-of-touch with the architectural realities of this city?

    Something to consider – if Devimco had presented a re-development plan in which they had already provided for necessary social services (such as a school, community centre, space for small businesses, logistical elements for public transit etc – ie, a total plan to ensure neighbourhood sustainability) and based the design and architecture on the best elements of established, gentrified neighbourhoods (ie, the Shaughnessy Village, the Mile End, the Plateau and Quartier Ste-Famille), would we all mind as much? If they went even further, perhaps going so far to use local materials and base their housing plans on the traditional limestone row-houses, terraces and Art Deco/Art Nouveau apartment buildings common in the aforementioned areas, wouldn`t Devimco have the support of the preservationist and sustainable development crowd? I can hardly imagine their would be much protest if this were the case. Moreover, by doing so Devimco would have a project that would elicit considerable local and international attention, as it would provide for a Post-Modernism particular to our fair city – the integration of old and new, real-estate developers including social services as part of their master plan etc – all of this would be new, daring even, especially when contrasted with the dull, lifeless masses originally proposed. The new scaled-down version is no better, and fails in many of the same ways the original idea did. Furthermore, it looks like many of the condo developments I`ve seen in Toronto recently – something which ought to be avoided at all cost. As I see it, the design of these structures really only represent a contemporary design-interest, one which is unlikely to age well considering the buildings will be neither sustainable nor adequately connected to the urban environment. Griffintown must be developed, ideally as a vibrant middle-class neighbourhood that looks, feels and functions as an integrated component of the city. We cannot allow the development of `condo islands` in this area, especially if the developer has no interest in providing the services necessary to stimulate long-term growth. What really surprises me here is how Devimco and other real-estate developers missed the mark on Montreal design basics. Architecture and design are not `soft sciences` – they are all-encompassing fields of study with definite answers to precise problems. We`ve already determined the problems with the Griffintown area, so why is it that we allow Devimco to present us with models incapable of resolving these issues? How is it that a company – and clearly one which has the means and the desire to re-develop the entirety of the area – could fail so miserably when it comes to the basics of design as pertaining to Montreal and the future of urban living. It really boggles my mind.

  18. Car prohibition is not really an option in Montreal due to a lack of public transit infrastructure on the Island, despite the fact the core is well serviced. The Viennese project worked because their public transit is a viable alternative option to buying a car.

    As a resident in the Lowney project, I think people have been a bit unfair to Devimco. You have to give them some credit for changing the initial Marche central/Dix30 style mega project to a more platable mixed residential/ commercial plan before pulling the pull in the recession. Also a tram would be great to link the neighbourhood to downtown and the old port, especially in winter.

    One positive thing I like about the new project is that the buildings on the water will be tall, urban planners rarely get this right. I just hope the style of architecture will be more interesting than those ugly ETS buildings. 

  19. #1. What is to become of the CN Wellington lil’ white house… which in its present state would be quite an eyesore to this project…

    #2. And wasn’t it talked to move the lil’ art deco building behind lot 8 across the street in the park where used to be St. Mary’s Church?

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