This Thursday read: Redesigning for growth
Growth of the medium & large North American City — repositioning Montreal
To grow or not to grow
Cities in North America have, for the most, reached the ceiling of their industrial growth cycle and beyond. These cities were designed for the manufacturing era; we all know where the manufacturing economy has shrunk to. Hence, a great deal of North American cities are now in a competition against each other for investments, startups and educated individuals in a struggle to expand their diversifying economies. Unless you are New York, Chicago, Toronto or Los Angeles, you are competing in the continental market of cities wanting to keep growing. Medium to large sized cities are in a race to grow and evolve from an industrial economy and urban design to a modern economy and sustainable design.
In the course of the next 40 years, the biggest gainers won’t be behemoths like New York, Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles, but less populous, easier-to-manage cities that are both affordable and economically vibrant
Larger sized cities like Montreal, Vancouver, Boston or Philadelphia cannot compete with behemoths like NYC or Toronto for major investors due to their significantly smaller market. Likewise, they will not be in an advantageous position to attract new residents and startups of the new economy because of their high living and renting costs and their aging infrastructures. The new economy and its actors are attracted by smaller cities offering advantageous real-estate, livable and affordable spaces for themselves and their employees, and a chance to entrench with a more significant influence on the community.
Industrial era & its unsustainable transportation infrastructures
The fastest growing cities in the 20th century expanded from the industrial capitalization, especially port cities like Montreal. Their rapid growth involved major transportation infrastructure layouts that opened the door to urban sprawl and all the problems of unsustainable development that we know of today. These urban centres are now in a race to redesign their infrastructures and reposition their economy to compete against each other, but more importantly it seems, against smaller cities — Montreal’s repositioning on the continental and international scene after the receding of its industrial and manufacturing influence.
A great deal of new urban designers, business men and citizens are concerned with the redesigning of their city. Hopefully, just as many politicians and civil servants will have the same concern, and with reason; what we do now will determine the future. Luckily, Canadians are genuinely concerned with the evolution of their living environment, its economy and future. Hence we see numerous organizations concerned with sustainable development popping up in Canada’s communities.
The city of Kansas City Missouri and smart growth
Kansas City has produced one of North America’s fastest growth of the new technology industry and sustainable development industry in the past five years thanks to intelligent urban design. New public transportation infrastructures have spawned new investments in this medium sized city — More than a year from operation, Kansas City’s Streetcar is already driving investment downtown
Montreal is currently in this state of redesign and repositioning itself with major infrastructural investments in transportation, urban zoning and proximity services. The managing of civic assets will be critical if this endeavour is to succeed and if our community is to become a major player in the growing cities circuit of North America and the World. Future considerations: Montreal Reimagined
Quartier du Multimédia & Quartier des Spectacles
These two successful Montreal districts have demonstrated their strength in the recent decade by attracting significant investments, mainly thanks to civic assets management. High quality office and business spaces were created by facilitating the renovation and re-qualification of industrial heritage buildings and by massively investing in public infrastructures in the case of the Quartier des Spectacles for exemple. As a result, numerous new residential and commercial condominium projects have been constructed, including some interesting mixed use projects.
The new places
The next areas to be looked at, Griffintown and the Quartier de l’innovation will have to perform just as well to see this city simply maintain itself in the run – I emphasize on the word ‘maintain’ for every other city is pushing hard; the competition is massive.
What is worrisome about Montreal are two specific problems: poor public transit investments and disregard for proximity services. In a city the size of Montreal, which is in a seemingly unstoppable suburban sprawl dynamic, a major shift in urban design is needed. Already, the cost of living in new redesigned districts is sky-rocketing. Griffintown and The Quartier de l’Innovation have no direct access by metro and rapid poorly regulated condominium developments brush critical urban design issues aside. Of course, talks of a streetcar circuit through these two new districts linking downtown and old Montreal is in the talks but hey, lets not bet on it. However, there is another tremendous opportunity sitting dormant on the cities largest metro junction at Berri-UQAM
The Quartier Latin & Downtown
Some of this city’s critical areas have been more or less abandoned in terms of urban design so it seems. One such place is the îlot Voyageur — possibly ground zero for the worst urban mismanagement this city has ever seen. The Northern part of the Quebec owned lot, with its incomplete UQAM residence building, was sold to Vancouver promotor Aquilini for 45 000 000$ in return for a promise of affordable housing to be completed. That is what they are doing right now, and frankly it is all that this place could be turned into because of the low ceiling height design of the concrete structure. But what about the southern part, the largest and most important abandoned civic asset in the city. Why? Because it is the heart of downtown, and it is sitting on the metro’s main junction, with 20 000 square metres of ‘no man’s land’. Quebec had a solution for this: a 249 000 000$ of public money solution. But what about urban design ?
Marché Voyageur Project
A groupe of Citizens opposed to the civil servant tower project that offers no urban design solutions to the poverty and homelessness plagued area have proposed a sustainable development central market and public square. Driven by the Groupe d’Action Citoyenne Marché Voyageur and our own ceo, the Project is in its third phase of design preparing a new drawing integrating 30 000 square meter office spaces to the original proposition as seen above. This new proposal is in response to Montreal and Quebec City’s reticence to our initial design.
A significant amount of media coverage has occured in the Marché Voyageur Project
Citizens for Montreal
Like others trying to contribute, we are a non-profit organization wanting to make our neighbourhood great again, and certainly contribute positively to this city’s future in the process. We are professionals in urban design, architecture, marketing and urban agriculture that have come together to form this Groupe d’Action Citoyenne Marché Voyageur in a bid to Quebec and Montreal for a better design on the îlot Voyageur Sud at a better price with a better impact on sustainable development. Public markets and public squares as economic engines.
What is meant when a neighborhood is reborn, revitalized, regenerated, or discovered? Who are the actors behind such processes? And who is denied the glitz and glamour of the opening night buzz?