Sunday, September 14, 2008

Remember Griffintown

Griffintown is the name given to the area of Montreal west of Old Montreal, south of downtown. Historically it's been home to immigrants - first the Irish, and later Jewish, Italian, and African-Canadian communities (the last probably due to spillover from St-Henri and Little Burgundy). In the 1960s, it turned into an industrial ghost town, the facades of which still remain. Nowadays it's home to artist loft spaces and low-income housing - some reports place half the population of Griffintown under the poverty line.

At some point in 2007, Devimco thought it would be a good idea to uproot the entire Griffintown community to make way for strip malls, chain caf├ęs and other markings of suburbia. My biggest issue with the whole process is that the residents of Griffintown were never consulted in the process; the Tremblay administration rubber-stamped Devimco's plans, hoping nobody would get wind of it, or at least that nobody would mind. It doesn't make much economic sense either - Devimco's last project, the Dix30 in Brossard, is just barely complete and finding its feet; and the western edge of downtown, from Guy over to Atwater, has been in dire straits for years. The neighbourhood wouldn't be able to sustain the development planned for it, and it would wreak havoc not just on Griffintown but on the aforementioned strip of Ste-Catherine.

A couple of Concordia students, in conjunction with Indyish, threw a protest/awareness festival called Remember Griffintown this weekend, with walking tours and scavenger hunts through the hood, gumboots demonstrations, a makeshift art gallery in a dilapidated cave, and stellar indie artists in the tent. Luckily, Devimco has been struggling to find investors for the project which has bought residents and protesters some time. And while the neighbourhood is maligned as a somewhat sketchy and low-rent part of town, it holds some of Montreal's most colourful history. I cringe to see it steamrolled by a half-baked development project.

No comments: