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Griffintown expansion sparks controversy

Construction of “District Griffin” continues despite residents’ doubts over its effectiveness at revitalizing the Griffintown neighbourhood.

Developer Devimco, along with its partners Group Cholette, the Fonds immobilier de solidarité (FTQ), and the City of Montreal, have invested $745 million in their plan to transform the area.

The first of three phases of construction is currently under way, and will include 1,375 condo units, a hotel, 200,000 square feet of office space, shops, and other businesses. The next two phases will include 1,045 residential units, as well as office and commercial space.

In 2008, Devimco proposed a much larger Projet Griffintown that would have brought, among other things, big box stores and a concert hall to the neighbourhood, but the group altered their proposition after strong community opposition.

Jeffrey Dungen, spokesperson for the Committee for Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown, said he was happy the project has been scaled back.

“But the big problem is really that the zoning from Projet Griffintown still exists. That got voted in and hasn’t been repealed,” said Dungen.

Griffintown residents and city officials have also expressed concern over the number of affordable and social housing units included in the developments. With the announcement of Phase One, Devimco promised to offer 206 affordable housing units and 275 social housing units, surpassing the City’s requirement that they comprise 30 per cent of new residential units.

While Devimco President Serge Goulet insisted that the company would honour its promises, community members like Dungen are upset over the placement of these units within a small triangle of land bordered by Ottawa, Murray and de la Montagne streets.

“The whole idea of having social housing is that it’s inclusive,” said Dungen, explaining that a lot of people took huge offense to this triangle becoming a “dumping ground for social housing,” while residents paying full rent in the taller towers will enjoy better views.

Residents have also voiced opposition to the high height allowances that developers have negotiated. Construction on the second phase of development is set to begin in November.

“The best we can do for the future phases is to ensure…that they tailor everything to the changing neighbourhood,” said Dungen. “We’re not going to go and jump in front of bulldozers or anything like that.”