The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

Griffintown: in a spirit of improvement, rather than opposition!Viewpoint by Isabelle Hudon

Text signed by Isabelle Hudon, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, and Dinu Bumbaru, policy director, Héritage Montréal, and published in La Presse on January 11, 2008.

Griffintown: in a spirit of improvement, rather than opposition!

Much in the news these days, the Griffintown project gives us an opportunity to collectively review our attitude and commitment to major urban projects. Above all, there is a need for expert agencies, community organizations, the business community, the general public, and the media to intensify their commitment to ensure the public debates we wish to hold on such projects end up benefiting the metropolis.

Major projects carried out in existing environments inevitably entail their share of challenges. That is to be expected, and a $1.3 billion project such as the one proposed by Devimco is obviously no exception.  But if we want to give Montréal the chance to develop its full potential and revitalize sectors with a crying need for investment, we must keep an open mind with regard to developers who, in their own way, have the means and obligation to continue the work of building Montréal.  Without neglecting the legitimate interests of investors, our organizations give developers the “benefit of the doubt” regarding their desire to participate in the sustainable development of Montréal from an economic, urban, and cultural perspective.

Because the urban fabric of any city is a living but fragile economic, environmental, and social “ecosystem,” we have a collective responsibility to ensure that projects are developed, carried out, and then managed in accordance with an integrated approach to sustainable urban development.  This is all the more important in that the scale of major projects now far surpasses that of the achievements of builders in years gone by.

Understanding and taking into account the personality of neighbourhoods and the heritage dimensions setting Montréal apart from other major metropolises is a matter not just of regulations but of our attitude when developing and studying projects.  Respecting our heritage does not mean turning the city into a museum.  On the contrary, however modest, the heritage character of a neighbourhood should be seen as a value added to any major project.  The real challenge for the builders of our metropolis is thus to conserve the spirit, or DNA, of the neighbourhoods they wish to transform in a spirit of high-quality, innovative, and human urban and architectural development.

If we are to transform our vision into action, we must maintain an atmosphere favourable to discussion.  Despite a complex and fragmented municipal framework, Devimco has contributed to this atmosphere by listening to the concerns expressed by local and metropolitan players, including the Board of Trade and Héritage Montréal.  Already, the initial project has evolved, better meeting the requirements of the community and of Montréal's exemplary Urban plan.  This work must continue, and we sincerely hope the upcoming consultations with the Southwest borough will help move it along.

Since its founding, Montréal has been built by forward-looking projects.  Making a positive contribution to its success does not mean abandoning our critical faculties.  We can be open, positive, and stringent.  The development of the metropolis is damaged as much by complacency as by suspicious negativity.  We therefore commit to making the necessary effort to work together to find solutions ensuring that this major project – and others in Montréal – will contribute to our collective prosperity and the real revitalization of our neighbourhoods and of the living heart of our metropolis – a metropolis that is moving forward, a metropolis of winners!

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