Griffintown: Keegan House Saved. Really?

April 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

Montreal is a strange place.  The city basically works in completely counter-intuitive ways.  Last week, the Comité consultatif d’urbanisme (CCU) of the arrondissement sud-ouest of the Ville de Montréal denied permission to developer, Maitre-Carré, to tear down the oldest building in Griffintown, a grotty old house that stands at 175, rue de la Montagne.  The Keegan House, as it is now known, was built sometime between 1825 and 1835, on Murray Street, a block over from its present state.  It was moved to what was then McCord Street in 1865, around the same time that the handsome row of townhouses was constructed up the block.

When Maitre Carré’s plans were first made public, I was apprehensive, but also thought that perhaps the developer deserved our benefit of the doubt, insofar as it had, at least, made some nod to heritage in Griff when Hugo Girard-Beauchamp, the company’s president, bought the Horse Palace and has at least nodded to the idea of maintaining the Palace as a working stable going forward (whether this will happen in practice is a whole different kettle of fish).  Indeed, as my friend, G. Scott MacLeod, a film-maker interested in Griff, said, Maitre-Carré is the only developer that has at least acknowledged the history and heritage of the neighbourhood.  Indeed, other condo developers, most notably Devimco and Préval have been more interested in stuffing ugly, neo-brutalist blocks of condos down on the Griffintown landscape, completely destroying the streetscape (such as it existed) and dwarfing the original buildings.

Having said all that, at this point anyway (because one never knows in Montreal), this is an optimistic sign.  Anne-Marie Sigouin, the city councillor for Saint-Paul/Émard, and the chair of the CCU, said (according to The Gazette) “We have sent the architects back to the drawing board.  We want to send a clear message on heritage protection.”  This is rather surprising, since the CCU and the Ville de Montréal as a whole have not demonstrated much in the way of leadership up to now in Griff.

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