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Le Devoir de cité: When skyscrapers threaten Montreal's heritage

Le Devoir de cité: When skyscrapers threaten Montreal’s heritage

The pandemic may have scared office workers in downtown Montreal, because it hasn’t slowed down construction projects. Among them, the store associated with the popular Hudson’s Bay store, which could undergo a major transformation over the next few years. The City of Montreal will be called upon to approve (or not approve) an exemption from the urban plan to allow the construction of a 120-meter tower on the site. These “partial” licenses worry heritage advocates.

The project submitted by its owner, Hudson Bay Company (HBC), provides for the restoration of the Hudson Bay Heritage Building, located at 585 Saint Catherine Street West, which was constructed by the Henry Morgan Company in 1891. It is known as the “Colonial House.” On the other hand, it is proposed to demolish The rear of the building, which was added in 1966, and the construction of a 25-story office tower with terraces was designed and designed by the architecture firm Minx Schöner Dagnier Lee Tourneau.

The project passed the first phase of approval in the municipal council on February 23, but ultimately elected officials will have to make a decision not to adhere to the master plan, as the authorized height is 65 meters in this area. Sector, while the tower is expected to be 120 meters high.

Always higher

For the Montreal Heritage Board (CPM), a city advisory body, this amendment to the urban plan is not a trivial testament to this growing phenomenon. “We are in the presence of a heritage building and it is said that the only way to profit from the investments inherent in preserving it is to build a tower on the same site,” CPM wrote in its opinion submitted to the city last November .. “The committee is concerned about this current growing trend in the middle of The city, which, like the facade, has the effect of weakening the built heritage in this sector of the city. “

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PMO returns to this issue in its annual report to City Council last week and regrets these “partial” exemption requests.

Can we take a step back and not give permissions to the precedent piece?

Heritage Montreal shares its concerns. “The Gulf is one case, but there are several at the same time. Can we take a step back and not give permissions to the precedent piece?” Asks Taika Baillargeon, Assistant Director of Policies at Héritage Montreal. According to her, there is a link that needs to be made with The controversy in recent months has revolved around the height of buildings in the city center.

In his book I am looking for Montreal Posted in March, Montreal mayor candidate Denis Coudray updated the issue by suggesting that the city reassess the possibility of permitting structures higher than Mount Royal.

Taika Baillargeon fears that through demeaning projects like the Hudson Bay project, we will end up creating a visual barrier between the mountain and the river. We say it and repeat it, Montreal without its mountain loses much of its uniqueness. She realizes, however, that the owner wants to build at a height to finance the restoration of the historic building. “In the case of La Baie, we have a good exercise in facade restoration. But the shame is that the interiors are being neglected.”

The Office of Public Consulting in Montreal (OCPM) is also consulting on the Hudson’s Bay project these days. Last Wednesday, Heritage Montreal and the founder of the Canadian Center for Architecture, Phyllis Lambert, raised their concerns to the curators.

In an interview, Peter Jacobs, CPM Chair and Professor at the University of Montreal’s School of Planning, declined to venture into the downtown heights issue, a dossier he considers “political.” But its position is clear: “Montreal is known as a city between a mountain and a river. I believe there are societal values ​​that transcend economic value. From a historical, cultural and heritage point of view, Mount Royal is a landmark as powerful as the St. Lawrence River and deserves respect.”

The council considers, however, that the downtown heights issue should be taken into account in reviewing the current master plan. The city has also been asked to better protect the area by granting a quote for Square Phillips which will include Hudson’s Bay store, which is also required by the opposition in City Hall.

The Heritage Officer on the Executive Committee, Emily Thuillier, recalls that the city did not give its final approval to the Hudson Bay project and that it would take into account OCPM’s recommendations in order to “get the best possible project”. “It is true that there are permissible exceptions, but it is going through a very broad public participation process, that of OCPM,” she said, stressing that the issue of heights will be part of the urban plan review work. .

Façadism and other evils

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