The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

Heritage: the business community a key player

Montréal’s 375th anniversary celebrations, which get under way in a few days, will remind us of our city’s rich history. This history can be seen every day in the streets of Montréal, which is part of what charms the residents and visitors who help make the city the vibrant place it is. Both historical built heritage and modern heritage define Montréal and shape its unique character.

Montréal’s buildings and heritage symbols are strategic assets that need to serve the city’s development. However, protecting and enhancing heritage requires major reinvestments that can’t come exclusively from public funds. This is why the business community should play a vital role in developing and enhancing heritage sites.

On May 1, the Chamber presented its brief on the Ville de Montréal’s draft 2017-2022 Heritage Action Plan. It pointed to the need for the Ville de Montréal’s to take a proactive approach in the requalification of complexes with a single identity and major buildings. The Chamber also called on the Ville de Montréal to play a leading role in heritage management, complementing the Government of Québec’s areas of activity.

Here are three highlights from the Chamber’s brief.

A vibrant approach

The Ville de Montréal’s approach must be vibrant and open to modernizing heritage sites for the heritage action plan to work. Montréal can’t be a mausoleum, and its heritage buildings need to be vibrant. Openness to requalification is essential to attract developers who will breathe new life into our landmark buildings.

No site, regardless of its history or heritage, can survive without reinvestment. Most heritage buildings that are an issue will require competitions among private developers to update their vocation and justify the investment required. Making this heritage part of the city’s fabric will be another symbol of its vitality. There are many examples of superb results, including the Gare Viger and the Hotel Windsor.

Reconversions required

A number of buildings present particular challenges, including the Royal Victoria Hospital and Hôtel-Dieu. These are in addition to religious heritage buildings that are part of the city’s architectural framework and that show a great deal of potential. It is therefore important that the Ville de Montréal set strategies for reconverting and enhancing them to avoid long stretches of underuse, generating additional costs.

Dialogue: a worthwhile effort

It is essential that we bring stakeholders together around a table early on in the process. Private developers, elected officials and heritage champions all have a role to play in making projects successful within a reasonable timeframe and at a reasonable cost. The recent designation of the Maison Alcan is a great example of this sort of concerted effort. Stakeholders determined what should be designated as heritage and what could be modernized. The Chamber participated in this constructive effort and is eager to support these processes in the future.

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