Text signed by Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, and published in Cyberpresse.
June 11, 2009
The Quadrilatère Saint-Laurent/2-22 and Marianopolis:
Projects that deserve to move forward!
It is perfectly natural and appropriate to be concerned about the impact of development on our city. Every new project has long-term effects: we will have to live with the consequences both positive and negative for years to come.
With each new project carried out along with, let's face it, a few errors made along the way we have learned together. We are more aware of issues related to heritage, town planning, and the preservation of green spaces. Insofar as this causes us to demand and obtain higher-quality development, we are on the right track. But when excessive idealism begins to stifle development, we run the risk of losing our way.
In the cases of the Quadrilatère Saint-Laurent/2-22 and Marianopolis (the Sulpician Seminary), both private initiatives, we are getting dangerously close to that point.
The Quadrilatère Saint-Laurent/2-22: restoring the heart of montréal
The redevelopment of the intersection of the Mains proposed by the Société de développement Angus (SDA) is an admirable initiative. To say that the buildings targeted by the project are in disrepair is an understatement. Aside from the Monument-National, the entire west side of Saint-Laurent Boulevard in this area is unworthy of a downtown core aiming to be inviting.
You might think that the announcement of a comprehensive, high-quality project spearheaded by a reputable developer just think of the success of the redeveloped Angus workshops would meet with a warm welcome: Thank you for eliminating this unsightly scar on the face of our downtown core!
It goes without saying that we all wish for the best possible project for this sector. Hopes and reasonable demands have their place in a consultation process. The developer has a responsibility to listen to the concerns expressed just as SDA is doing. On the other hand, we also have a duty to respect the efforts and constraints of the developer. Moreover, it's in our own best interest to help smooth its path: we all want a dynamic city, where numerous well-thought-out projects move forward quickly.
So we might hope that the developer's applications to amend the planning program would be assessed pragmatically with a view to finding a reasonable compromise. Given that the project is near the Hydro-Québec tower and the Complexe Desjardins, there is something surreal about the question of height being of such concern. We're talking about downtown, after all!
If we must decide between the status quo and adding a couple of storeys, surely the choice is clear!
Marianopolis: a project enhancing our heritage
The second project that concerning the future of the building once occupied by the Sulpicians and Marianopolis College is equally emblematic: do we want a city frozen in time, forever seeking an illusory project, or one able to recognize integrative projects respectful of their environment?
The Seminary's location on the west side of Mount Royal has elements of great value to our community: its architectural heritage and the vast green spaces surrounding it. We must therefore seek to effectively protect those assets, preventing them from being abandoned, left to the mercy of vandals and the elements, and ensuring that a new vocation serves to enhance the whole.
Some continue to hope that this site will maintain its institutional vocation. They would like us to wait, as if a miracle solution is just around the corner. The reality is that the Sulpicians, current owners of the building, no longer have the resources to keep and maintain a site they no longer need. And no institution has shown any desire to step into the breach.
We all know that the Sulpicians have chosen the best possible project, and it is from this perspective that we must assess the proposal of the developer, Cato.
Close study of the project reveals without the shadow of a doubt that Cato is anxious to develop the site in a manner that respects its heritage value and green spaces. The Sulpicians themselves chose this project on the basis of the efforts proposed by the developer with regard to landscape architecture, reforestation, public access to the site, and respect for architectural style in the new constructions.
In the end, Montrealers will gain from the sustainable enhancement of the architecture, improved access to the site, and a limited number of new buildings integrating the site's overall aesthetics.
Both the Quadrilatère Saint-Laurent/2-22 and Marianopolis thus take on symbolic importance: are we prepared to recognize the value of the developments in respecting our green spaces and historic heritage?