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  1. City planners take new look at urban vistas Frances Bula, Special to the Globe and Mail, March 30th, 2009 --------------------- Vancouver’s famous view corridors have prompted more anguished howls from architects than almost anything else I can think of over the years. Now, the city is looking at re-examining them. (And, as the sharp-eyed people at skyscraper.com have noted, the posting for people to run the public consultation went up on city website Friday. You can see their comments on the whole debate here.) You can get a flavour of the arguments from my story in the Globe today, which I’ve reproduced below. --------------------- Vancouver is legendary as a city that has fought to prevent buildings from intruding on its spectacular mountain backdrop and ocean setting. Unlike Calgary, which lost its chance to preserve views of the Rockies 25 years ago, or Toronto, which has allowed a highway plus a wall of condo towers to go up between the city and its lake, Vancouver set an aggressive policy almost two decades ago to protect more than two dozen designated view corridors. But now the city is entertaining re-examining that controversial policy, one that has its fierce defenders and its equally fierce critics, especially the architects who have had to slice off or squish parts of buildings to make them fit around the corridors. And the city’s head planner is signalling that he’s definitely open to change. “I’ve got a serious appetite for shifting those view corridors,” says Brent Toderian, a former Calgary planner hired two years ago, who has been working hard to set new directions in a city famous for its urban planning. “The view corridors have been one of the most monumental city-shaping tools in Vancouver’s history but they need to be looked at again. We have a mountain line and we have a building line where that line is inherently subjective.” The issue isn’t just about preserving views versus giving architects free rein. Vancouver has used height and density bonuses to developers with increasing frequency in return for all kinds of community benefits, including daycares, parks, theatres and social housing. A height limit means less to trade for those amenities. Mr. Toderian, who thinks the city also needs to establish some new view corridors along with adjusting or eliminating others, says a public hearing on the issue won’t happen until the fall, but he is already kicking off the discussion quietly in the hope that it will turn into a wide-ranging debate. “The input for the last few years has been one-sided, from the people who think the view corridors should be abolished,” he said. “But we’re looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks. Most people who would support them don’t even think about them. They think the views we have are by accident.” The view-corridor policy, formally adopted in 1989, was the result of public complaints over some tall buildings going up, including Harbour Centre, which is now, with its tower and revolving restaurant, seen as a defining part of the Vancouver skyline. But then, it helped spur a public consultation process and policy development that many say confused the goal of preserving views with a mathematical set of rules that often didn’t make sense. One of those critics is prominent architect Richard Henriquez, who said the corridors don’t protect the views that people have consistently said they value most from the city’s many beaches and along streets that terminate at the water. Instead, he says many of the view corridors are arbitrarily chosen points that preserve a shard of view for commuters coming into town. That has resulted in the city losing billions of dollars of potential development “for someone driving along so they can get a glimpse of something for a second.” And, Mr. Henriquez argues, city residents have a wealth of exposure to the city’s mountains throughout the region. “Downtown Vancouver is a speck of urbanity in a sea of views,” said Mr. Henriquez, who is feeling the problem acutely these days while he works on a development project downtown where the owners are trying to preserve a historic residential hotel, the Murray, while building an economically feasible tower on the smaller piece of land next to it. The view corridor means the building has to be shorter and broader and is potentially undoable. His project is one in a long list of projects that have been abandoned or altered because of view corridor rules in Vancouver. The Shangri-La Hotel, currently the tallest building in the city at 650 feet, is sliced diagonally along one side to prevent it from straying into the view corridor. At the Woodward’s project, which redeveloped the city’s historic department store, one tower had to be shortened and the other raised to fit the corridor. And architect Bing Thom’s plan for a crystal spire on top of a development next to the Hotel Georgia was eventually dropped because city officials refused to budge on allowing the needle-like top to protrude. But one person wary about the city tinkering with the policy is former city councillor Gordon Price. “When people talk about revisiting, it just means one thing: eroding,” said Mr. Price, still a vocal advocate on urban issues. “People may only get this fragment of a view but it’s very precious. And those fragments will become scarcer as the city grows. The longer they remain intact, the more valuable they become.” It’s a debate that’s unique to Vancouver. Mr. Toderian said that when he was in Calgary, there was no discussion about trying to preserve views from the downtown to the Rockies in the distance. --------------------- cet article n'est pas tres recent, mais je sais pas s'il avait deja ete poste sur ce forum. meme s'il y a des differences, a mon avis beaucoup de ces arguments pourraient s'appliquer aussi pour Montreal. est-ce qu'on devra attendre une autre vague de demande bousillee pour relancer le debat ?
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/06/nyregion/06broadway.html?_r=2&ref=michael_m_grynbaum&pagewanted=all Ceux qui n'aiment pas les "piétonisations" à Mtl devront s'y faire. C'est un mouvement de fond, et généralisé.....
  3. A bridge in Mumbai Halfway to paradise A half-built bridge symbolises the urgency and the frustrations of improving India’s infrastructure Dec 22nd 2012 |From the print edition N 1988, when V.S. Naipaul arrived in Bombay, now known as Mumbai, and drove south from its airport, he could tell something unusual was happening because the traffic was so bad. It turned out that a festival of Dalits, the former untouchables, had led to crowds that blocked the roads. The Nobel-prizewinning writer complained of “fumes and heat and din” in his taxi to the Taj Hotel. The chaos was novel enough to form the opening passage of his book, “A Million Mutinies Now”. Today greater Mumbai’s population has almost doubled to 18m, and transport bedlam has become as integral to its psyche as the stockmarket, films and slums. Millions endure commutes that would qualify them for post-traumatic-stress counselling in rich countries. Rush-hour trains get so crushed that a phone or pair of glasses carried in a breast pocket will smash under the pressure of bodies. Every year perhaps 500 people perish after falling off trains in the city and 6,000 die on the tracks. If, like Mr Naipaul, you can afford a taxi, it will reek of sweat and honk and buck for inches of advantage against bigger cars, which under a Darwinian highway code have bullying rights. After monsoon storms the sewers overflow and the roads flood. On nights like this endless lines of vehicles crawl in the dark and you can hear the slop lapping on your car’s underbelly, like waves on a dinghy’s hull. But if you divert from Mr Naipaul’s route, by a creek at a place called Mahim, and turn west, you can take a different trip. Time leaps forward. India becomes China, or even Singapore. The swarm of autorickshaws fades and, after pausing at a toll booth, you find yourself on an eight-lane motorway running parallel with the coast, floating high over the sea on 120 piers, and suspended on wires from two 128-metre towers. The bridge is called the Sea Link and opened in 2009. If you open the window the air is fresh; if you put your foot down you can hit racing speed. From the bridge Mumbai’s berserk skyline seems hazy; the 23 sets of traffic lights and 40 minutes of furious traffic you are bypassing are like a bad dream. The Portuguese fort and aboriginal fishing village that you zip past feel about as real as the scenery of a Disneyland ride. For that matter, can it truly be possible that after just 4.7km, or about five minutes, all eight lanes of this glorious bridge stop in mid-air—as if King Kong had bitten them off? But alas, it is. If you keep going you will plunge into the Arabian Sea. Instead a narrow slip road delivers you back to the city. The shift is disorienting. As your car battles for space again and you pass a Dalit slum, perhaps housing the children of the folk Mr Naipaul saw, it is tempting to look back. What just happened? Viewed from the Sea Link, Mumbai seems like a mirage. But seen from the chaos of the city, it is the Sea Link that is improbable, like a giant hologram. Decent infrastructure and this megacity, maybe this country, do not belong together. Do they? Dream on If any country needs better infrastructure, it is fast-urbanising India. The government hopes a trillion dollars will be spent between 2012 and 2017, although with a creaking banking sector and jumpy investors that is optimistic. If any megacity needs better transport, it is Mumbai. Formed from seven islands, the city was given by Portugal to Charles II of England in 1661 as dowry for his marriage to Catherine of Braganza. It is a long spit whose hub is at its southern tip. Manhattan has 16 bridges, four underwater tunnels and a ferry system linking it to the mainland. Mumbai has just six bridges, all but one at its northern extremity. Two main roads, three railway lines and an airport besieged by shanty towns are its fragile links to the outside world. The city centre is like a head on a long, strangled neck. The difficulty of commuting is partly why Mumbai is so densely populated, with property prices driven high and migrants forced into slums, which now house over half the population. There are only a handful of successful state-sponsored developments: a satellite city on the mainland called Navi (New) Mumbai, some flyovers and a new office park built on marshland near the airport. What Mumbai has been unable to do in practice, it has done in theory. The first master plan to relieve the city’s woes emerged in 1948, the most recent in 2011. In the six decades in between some fine minds, from J.R.D. Tata, a revered industrialist, in 1981, to McKinsey, a consulting firm, in 2003, have had their say. There is widespread agreement on what is required. First, a road round the city’s perimeter—probably a series of Sea Link-style bridges along its entire west coast, and on its east coast a highway partly to be built on land occupied by the city’s dying old port. Second, to link this ring to the mainland, a 22km road over the sea, an idea known as the “trans-harbour link”. Third, near the end of this putative bridge, on the mainland, a new airport. And fourth, at least nine metro lines in the city itself. You can get a flavour of this Utopia in the offices of one of the many government agencies responsible for projects in Maharashtra, the state Mumbai belongs to. A huge, Lego-for-adults model built by a Singaporean firm shows the city centre bisected by an elevated bridge that sweeps in from the ocean. Vast new skyscrapers tower over the Art Deco and colonial buildings. Today’s shabby military cantonment is a nature park. Metro stations are everywhere. Jetties for ferries are abundant. A slum has become a “heritage village” with yachts moored beside it. The sea is blue, the grass is green and the buildings are spotless white. All of it is made up. Indeed of all the transport mega-projects planned for Mumbai, after decades of reports and committees, only one is in use: that surreal 4.7km stretch of the Sea Link. Kafka in Bombay What has gone wrong? One view can be heard on the wasteland at the north abutment of the Sea Link. A ragged family are smashing reinforced concrete rubble. They say they get about a dollar for every two kilos of steel inside—roughly the cost of a one-way Sea Link ticket. Nearby, dogs and feral pigs sniff around abandoned machinery as Girish, aged 52, hits the bottle with his colleagues. The pals work nights in a call centre selling Americans an erectile-dysfunction drug. “You get a quick recharge,” is the sales pitch; the most common response, they all agree, is “Fuck you”. They also agree that this derelict land is a fine spot to unwind. Yet the rumour, which seems to have originated in the nearby slum, is that it has been grabbed secretly by a tycoon to build a mall, or luxury flats; the details vary. A local priest (a church was built nearby in 1575) talks suspiciously of the “fantasy” that any such project could ever benefit the common man. In fact, the land is still owned by the government. But the conspiracy theory that Mumbai is essentially a stitch-up by the rich is not propounded only by drunk cold-callers and men of the cloth. It may be the most widely held belief in the city. Its grandest iteration is that the city’s elite has deliberately sabotaged its transport infrastructure to enrich themselves. The argument goes like this: better transport would lower the scarcity premium on land and property in downtown Mumbai, hurting builders’ profits, and in turn curbing the flow of bribes to India’s political parties. The idea that the rich control the city’s fate was fuelled by a battle in 2005-08 between Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, and his estranged brother, Anil, over a tender to build the trans-harbour link. After a legal tussle Anil undercut his brother by bidding for a concession of nine years and 11 months. The tender process was eventually abandoned. Mumbai is certainly corrupt in other ways. The chief minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, who wants to clean things up, speaks of a nexus of builders and politicians. One official reckons illegal gains of $5 billion a year have been made by builders bribing their way around planning rules. “Those bastards have ruined everything” by scaring off legitimate firms, says one boss. But the grand conspiracy theory is silly. Mukesh Ambani owns a chunk of land near the proposed new airport, the value of which would soar if the trans-harbour link were built. Builders are buying space near proposed metro stations. And without good transport links the population of south Mumbai has begun to decline, which should be bad for property prices. Most businesspeople say the city’s decay is an embarrassment. The truth is fiddlier—as the half-built Sea Link demonstrates. The bridge was commissioned in 1999 but took ten years to finish, instead of the planned two and a half. Ajit Gulabchand, the boss of HCC, the construction firm that won the contract to build it, says the project was “a Kafkaesque struggle”. He describes himself as a “south Bombay boy” and drives a Bentley through the city to his office in the north-east (he does not use the Sea Link because there are no good connections between the west and the east). He is also subject, like all tycoons, to a secondary conspiracy theory, which is that he gained by being close to Sharad Pawar, who heads a Maharashtrian political clan. Mr Gulabchand says this is rubbish. “I’m not going to deny my friendship,” he says. But, “If I’m so powerful, how come I lost money?” One recent fiasco involved a military convoy doing a U-turn, a naval ambulance, a man in flip-flops with a red flag, and thousands of angry drivers The bridge’s original budget was $74m at current exchange rates, which rose to double that (officials verify these figures). Mr Gulabchand says he is still owed around $100m. The rising cost reflects a deep problem: delays. After construction began the cash-starved road agency in charge, MSRDC, changed the plan from eight lanes to four and back to eight again. The council took an age to release the land needed to house machinery (near where the call-centre employees relax). Maritime rules banned work during the monsoon. Customs held up the import of a 5,400-tonne floating crane. Subsea telecoms cables were found in the wrong place. Old folk living nearby griped about noise pollution. Those are the kind of problems big projects face everywhere. But other hurdles were peculiarly Indian. In a 107-year-old house in the fishing village the bridge passes over at its southern end sits Vijay Worlikar, one of the “nine Patils”, or clan chiefs, who in effect run the area. He is a Koli, an aboriginal people who have been there for centuries; he has childhood memories of Iranian boats sailing to the village to trade pistachios for dried fish. “This land is our land,” he says. Mr Worlikar successfully campaigned to shift the bridge farther from the village, and for a second suspended section to be built to create a channel for the fishing fleet to sail underneath. His legal objections, along with other environmental complaints, caused years of delays. Yet he is a modern man: his daughter is a doctor and his son an executive at the airport. He blames sloppy planning. He says he is now helping the state build relations with other fishing villages in the city to try to avoid further fiascos. Cutting red tape and winning public support would be easier with political leadership. The Sea Link was opened, with a firework display, by Sonia Gandhi, the dynast of India’s ruling Congress Party, and was officially named after her assassinated husband, Rajiv. However, consistent with the rule that the more politicians celebrate a finished project, the less they did to make it happen, the Sea Link had earlier been left out to dry. Mr Gulabchand says that after the state government changed in 1999 and an energetic minister left, the plan had no sponsor to bulldoze through bureaucracy. Maharashtra’s ruling coalition since 1999, of the Congress Party and the NCP, often squabbles over who runs big projects. The politicians have rural vote banks and are afraid, as one official puts it, “to be seen to neglect the rural man”. Mr Gulabchand thinks Mumbai needs more political accountability: “The Sea Link would not have been delayed if there was a mayor responsible for doing it. His re-election would have depended on it.” For the time being, such a change in the city’s governance seems unlikely. Mumbai’s biggest secret To grow fast India needs lots more infrastructure. But lately spending has been falling. The central bank thinks that the value of envisioned projects dropped by 52% in 2011-12. The slump reflects worries about red tape, corruption and doubts about the profitability of public-private partnerships (PPPs). In Mumbai it is easy to despair. “The whole spirit of doing things has gone,” says Mr Gulabchand. Five kilometres south of Mr Worlikar’s village is a fenced plot by the sea where men sit on plastic seats, apparently anticipating, like actors in a production of “Waiting for Godot”, the next section of the Sea Link to arrive. It could be a while. The winner of a PPP project to build and run it, Anil Ambani, has got cold feet. A political tussle has erupted, with the NCP keen to build a bridge using public funds and Congress preferring a road on reclaimed land. Nothing may happen for years. Yet, just as the Sea Link manages those 4.7km of elevated bliss, some projects are moving. Beneath a hill owned by an atomic research agency in north Mumbai, roaring diggers have almost finished excavating two half-kilometre-long tunnels. Outside, in both directions, the ghastly task of clearing slums has been accomplished and their residents moved to blocks of flats nearby. This is part of Mumbai’s best-kept secret—the Eastern Freeway, a new road stretching all the way down the city’s east coast, on the opposite side from the Sea Link, using tunnels and stilts. It should open in 2013, about five years after work began. J.R. Dhane, an engineer on the project, says it has been like painstakingly weaving a thread through the city’s dense fabric. Elsewhere the first metro line is almost finished, its platforms inches away from living-room windows, an experimental monorail is coming up, and a new round of bids is set to begin on a contract to build and operate a $2 billion trans-harbour link. These projects are all being run by the MMRDA, a state development body that has stepped into the vacuum. It owns land worth $12 billion, which it sells to help finance projects, and is viewed as clean and technocratic. Its boss, Rahul Asthana, says that progress is being made, but seems cautious about the city making a Shanghai-style great leap forward. In all probability Mumbai will do enough to prevent a crisis, but not enough to fulfil its vast potential or quickly transform the quality of most of its people’s lives. The same is true of infrastructure across India. And what of that 4.7km stretch of the Sea Link, stranded out there, all alone? The bridge is in good nick but seems to be run poorly by the road agency, MSRDC (its chief declined interview requests). Vehicle numbers are thought to be half those expected. The financial impact is hard to assess: the most recent annual report on the agency’s website is from 2008. Waiting for Utopia Meanwhile the toll-booth system has become a slapstick affair, with a maze of concrete chicanes prone to collapse, complex cash fares and overstaffed booths. Usually receipts are printed, but occasionally they are hand-stamped on the kind of paper used for bingo tickets. Accusations of graft swirl. An electronic swipe system has apparently been introduced but seems to be available only to VIPs. After a suicide jump in August it emerged that the CCTV system to help stop terrorist attacks was not working properly. One recent fiasco involved a military convoy doing a U-turn on the bridge, a naval ambulance, a man in flip-flops with a red flag like a Formula One race official, and thousands of angry drivers. This created a traffic jam along most of the Sea Link, which seemed at last to have become part of the city. Often couples on motorbikes park by the bridge. They are not there to ride on it—two-wheelers are prohibited. They are not seeking intimacy, for the choice spot for that is the rocks around the headland at low tide. Nor are they there for the ambience, for the ground nearby features broken promenades, weeds and rats. They are there for the view. When you see its sweeping cords silhouetted against a dusky sky, the Sea Link is as close to a wonder as Mumbai can offer. And whether this ritual demonstrates low expectations or hope is in the minds of the beholders alone. http://www.economist.com/news/christmas-specials/21568582-half-built-bridge-symbolises-urgency-and-frustrations-improving-indias
  4. http://gehlarchitects.com/blog/hurray-for-smart-montrealers/ HURRAY FOR SMART MONTREALERS! Over the last couple of months I have written about the different aspects of smart cities, the pros and cons, the dos and don’ts. The outcome of these musings suggests that we ought to discard the idea of a smart city for the sake of promoting smart communities, in which smartness is a tool for benefitting and improving the local social sustainability. However, within this approach lies a fundamental challenge: how do we actually make communities engage with and take responsibility for the shaping of the public realm, using tools and methods they have never known before? Enter Montreal. Montreal uses pilot projects to kick-start the regeneration of the urban spaces. A vacant parking lot on the outskirts of Downtown was turned into an urban beach thanks to the local organization l’ADUQ. Public Life in Montreal To understand the social life of Montrealers, one must first understand the basic history of the city’s public spaces. During the era of modernisation, more than 1/3 of the downtown core was demolished to make way for massive super-complexes embodying offices, car pars, underground malls and cafes. In the industrial suburbs, thousands of housing units were torn down to allow vehicular traffic an easy access into the city. These “renovations” were carried out in less than two decades, but they still managed to methodically get in the way of public life. Since then, the city has taken a completely different approach to urban planning, superseding even today’s hype for attractive, green and lively metropolises. “My colleagues and I, we based our entire careers around reconstructing the city from where it was left after the 1970’s and 1980’s demolitions (…) we want Montreal to be a network of public spaces.” – Wade Eide, Montreal Urban Planning Department, private interview July 15, 2014 Throughout the year, Montreal hosts hundreds of events that all contribute to a lively and active public life. Today, the effects of Wade Eide and his colleagues’ efforts are absolutely visible in the streets and squares of Montreal, which have indeed been transformed into a coherent experience of activities and life. The most remarkable part of this transformation is the effect that it has had in the mentality of the citizens (or maybe it was the other way around?): in Montreal, the city truly is for its people, and people care for and participate in public matters to a degree that I have rarely seen. I believe, because of this mentality, Montreal has a serious chance of actually fulfilling the vision of a smart city built for and by communities. The steps of Place des Arts serve as a public space, popular with everyone on a sunny day. The Montreal Model Montreal’s outstanding mentality for public participation has – luckily – also been recognized by the current smart Montreal’s front-runners, mayor Denis Coderre and Vice-President of the Smart and Digital Office, Harout Chitilian. In their campaigns for a smarter Montreal, they enthusiastically encourage the citizens to voice their opinions and share their ideas: “This ambitious project of making a smart and digital city will take advantage of new technologies, but above all it will draw on the collective intelligence to create a specific Montreal model. I count on you, Montrealers to give your opinions on the various forums that are available to you. I invite you to participate today. The floor is yours!” – (translated from French) Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal, 2014 Focus on citizens is visible in the public space. In this project residents of Montreal share their unique stories in a virtual exhibition. As part of the public participation process, the city has developed a web portal, “Faire MTL” (Make Montreal), where Montrealers are offered the chance to contribute to, comment on, collaborate with and follow 180 tangible projects that are to be implemented over the next couple of years. The ambitious plans also include the creation of physical spaces for innovation and co-creation, along with the use of public spaces as living laboratories for the growing smart communities. The fusion of a genuinely open and inclusive government and the natural participatory spirit of the Montrealers, makes Montreal a key player to follow in the game of defining how future (smart) cities could be shaped and function at the hands of the citizens. Every summer Sainte-Catherine Street (the city’s commercial high street) transforms into a pedestrian street, allowing citizens to walk, shop, eat and enjoy the city life. Find more about Montreal’s projects here. August 25, 2015 __ Camilla Siggaard Andersen sent via Tapatalk
  5. Merci à MTLCity pour m'avoir aiguillé sur le sujet! http://w5.montreal.com/mtlweblog/?p=49437&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter http://vtdigger.org/2015/06/30/vermont-pbs-soaks-up-montreal-qulture/
  6. Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/look+Moishes/4889398/story.html#ixzz1OFxMp0Np
  7. Changing the plans America’s oil capital is throwing up a few environmental surprises Jul 14th 2012 | HOUSTON | from the print edition STEVE KLINEBERG, a sociologist at Rice University, mentions a couple of events that made Houston’s leaders take notice of a looming problem. One was the day, in 1999, when their city overtook Los Angeles as America’s most polluted—evidence that the rise in asthma attacks among the city’s children, and the students passing out on football pitches, were no coincidence. Another was when Houston came up short in its bid to compete to host the 2012 Olympics. No one on the United States Olympics Committee voted for it, despite the fact that Houston had a brand-new stadium and had promised to turn an old sports field into the world’s largest air-conditioned track-and-field arena. At a casual glance, Houston looks much as it ever did: a tangle of freeways running through a hodgepodge of skyscrapers, strip malls and mixed districts. A closer inspection, though, shows signs of change. The transport authority, which branched into light rail in 2004, is now planning three new lines, adding more than 20 miles of track. Most of the traffic lights now boast LED bulbs, rather than the incandescent sort. More than half the cars in the official city fleet are hybrid or electric, and in May a bike-sharing programme began. Every Wednesday a farmers’ market takes place by the steps of city hall. Other changes are harder to see. The energy codes for buildings have been overhauled and the city is, astonishingly, America’s biggest municipal buyer of renewable energy; about a third of its power comes from Texan wind farms. Houston, in other words, is going green. Laura Spanjian, the city’s director of sustainability, says that businesses are increasingly likely to get on board if they can see the long-term savings or the competitive advantages that flow from creating a more attractive city. She adds an important clarification: “We’re not mandating that they have to do this.” That would not go down well. Houston is the capital of America’s energy industry, and its leaders have traditionally been wary of environmental regulation, both at home and abroad. In fact the city has been sceptical of regulations in general, and even more of central planning. Houston famously has no zoning, which helps explain why the city covers some 600 square miles. It is America’s fourth-largest city by population, but less than half as densely populated as sprawling Los Angeles. People are heavily dependent on cars, the air quality is poor and access to green space is haphazard. At the same time, Houston has jobs, a low cost of living and cheap property. Many people have accepted that trade-off. Between 2000 and 2010 the greater metropolitan area added more than 1.2m people, making it America’s fastest-growing city. Still, the public is taking more interest in sustainability, and for a number of reasons. As the city’s population has swelled, the suburbs have become more crowded. Some of the growth has come from the domestic migration of young professionals with a taste for city life. And despite living in an oil-industry hub, the people of Houston are still aware of the cost of energy; during the summer of 2008, when petrol prices hovered around $4 a gallon, the papers reported a surge of people riding their bicycles to bus stops so that they could take public transport to work. The annual Houston Area Survey from Rice’s Kinder Institute also shows a change. This year’s survey found that 56% think a much better public transport system is “very important” for the city’s future. A similarly solid majority said the Metro system should use all its revenue for improvements to public transport, rather than diverting funds to mend potholes. In the 1990s, most respondents were more concerned about the roads. People’s views about houses have changed, too. In 2008 59% said they would prefer a big house with a big garden, even if that meant they had to use their car to go everywhere. Just 36% preferred a smaller house within walking distance of shops and workplaces. By 2012, preferences were running the other way: 51% liked the idea of a smaller house in a more interesting district, and only 47% said they wanted the lavish McMansion. http://www.economist.com/node/21558632
  8. New York City streets go green New York City transportation head, Janette Sadik-Kahn is taking it to the streets, literally. The visionary transportation planner, who has been on the job for two years and was tapped by the Obama Administration for a top post, is serious about sustainability. And, while her first attempt to reduce the city’s carbon footprint by proposing congestion pricing for those who came in to the city by car went over like a lead balloon, her current efforts to green the city’s streets by reinventing car lanes as public space has carried favor with just about everyone. Her latest project, dubbed “Green Lights for Broadway”, aims to transform the city’s iconic car-clogged thoroughfare into a pedestrian oasis. As the only street in Midtown that is off the grid, Broadway poses significant traffic problems and safety issues along its length. “Green Lights for Broadway” aims to reduce traffic congestion through Midtown with targeted improvements focused at Times Square and Herald Square that will speed cross town traffic and replace car lanes with public space where pedestrians can lunch or relax in the middle of the street. Broadway is just one of many areas of the city that is being “pedestrianised” by Sadik-Kahn. Another intiative to green the city steets is the Plaza Program which began last year aiming to put all New Yorkers within a 10-minute walk of a park. Under this program, streets throughout the city are being reinvented as public plazas, as, for example, at Madison Square Park where 45,000 sq ft of public space was recently added in the middle of Madison Avenue and in nearby Chelsea where a car lane was transformed into a plaza with planters and a bike lane. While these efforts will no doubt make the city more liveable, the Mayor and the Transportation Commissioner would like to see a Manhattan with fewer cars. As such, the city is tweaking its public transportation system to expand and speed service. While the focus is mainly on adding designated bus lanes and improving ferry service, there may also be a tramway in New York’s future. In the 1990s, while with the Dinkins Administration, Sadik-Kahn tried to build a light rail system on 42nd Street. And though that project died on the vine, the idea of a building a light rail line on 42nd Street is still very much alive. The Institute for Rational Mobility (RUM), an advocacy group, is currently floating a proposal, dubbed “Vision 42” that re-imagines 42nd Street as a landscaped pedestrian mall with a 2.5-mile long light rail line that runs river to river. In a recently released report, RUM indicates the roughly $500 million project would generate $704 million in annual benefit. While that project’s future is yet to be determined, Sadik-Kahn has said she is not opposed to using the dedicated bus lanes initiative as a “back door “ step toward light rail, noting that cities all over the world, like Bogotá Columbia, are working toward a light rail service by reclaiming auto space in this way. Regardless, the city’s green transportation czar is on the case manipulating over 6,000 miles of roadway and 12,000 miles of sidewalks for the betterment of the public. While incomplete, her efforts have led to large increases in cycling as a primary mode of transit, increased ridership on subways and busses, and reduced mortalities amongst bicyclists and pedestrians. Sharon McHugh US Correspondent http://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.projectview&upload_id=11479
  9. I wonder what some will have to say about this Henry Aubin: Can our city gain influence? By Henry Aubin, The Gazette January 2, 2013 0 Story Photos ( 2 ) Henry Aubin: Can our city gain influence? Henry Aubin MONTREAL — A study by U.S. intelligence predicts that the power of the world’s major cities will continue to grow in coming decades. Meanwhile, the power of most countries will wane. “The role of cities will be an even more important feature of the future as urban areas grow in wealth and economic power,” says the study by the National Intelligence Council, which reports to the U.S. intelligence czar James Clapper and which has made its study public to “stimulate strategic thinking” by decision-makers everywhere. “Increasingly, cities are likely to take the initiative on resource management, environmental standards, migration, and even security.” Meanwhile, countries in general “will struggle to keep up with the rapid diffusion of power.” So, can Montrealers count on their city wielding more clout? Sadly, no. The intelligence study does not deal with many cities individually, and it does not mention Montreal. But the study’s assertion that a city’s growth in influence hinges on its growth in “wealth and economic power” points to Montreal’s disadvantage. According to the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal’s calculation based on 2010 data, the Montreal area ranks dead last among the 32 largest Canadian and U.S. cities for per-capita GDP. On current form, it’s hard to imagine Montreal moving up very far. The Canadian constitution gives far less autonomy to cities than does U.S. law: In Canada, provinces control municipalities. That doesn’t hurt Toronto: The provincial legislature is located in that city, legislators know the city’s needs first-hand and there is no Ontario nationalism to distract them. Montreal has no such luck. The emergence of strong Quebec nationalism means the dominant political discourse is to gain more power for l’état québécois (either as a province or as a republic). Montreal mayors keep asking Quebec for more autonomy, but that would mean less power for l’état — and the mayors never obtain it. It’s all the easier for Quebec legislators to ignore Montreal’s needs because the city is a) far from the legislature geographically, b) far from the rest of the province socially because of its large non-francophone population and c) far from the levers of influence because it has so few swing ridings. Here, in no special order, are six ways in which the Quebec government, deliberately or not, adversely affects Montreal’s economic development. In a study of the Montreal metropolitan area, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says a “tangled muddle” of institutions is harming the area’s development. The respected think tank recommends that Quebec — the institutions’ ultimate master — chop many of them. That was in 2004. Quebec has done nothing, The Montreal area thus has more bureaucracies dealing directly or indirectly with economic development — and often working at cross purposes — than other North American metropolitan areas. Count’ em: Five administrative regions, seven conferences of elected officials, 12 counties (MRCs), 20 local development centres (CLDs) and 20 public transit boards. Studies show that immigrants, including those with solid credentials, find the labour market harder to crack here than in Toronto and Vancouver — where newcomers help fuel those cities’ economies. Quebec gained the power to help Ottawa select immigrants 17 years ago; it wanted to choose people who could best fit in here. Yet it has been too passive about fighting private-sector bias, too stuck in its ways to serve as a role model by hiring a more diverse public service. Universities have been the city’s best hope for success in the knowledge economy. Now the Parti Québécois government has cut their already subpar funding. Entrepreneurs also fuel cities’ economies. As it is, Montreal has too few of these job creators. Now a PQ plan would in effect make Montreal less hospitable to them by extending Bill 101 to companies with 26 to 49 employees. This could impede the recruiting of non-French-speaking knowledge workers from out of province. Much of Bill 101 is necessary for the health of French. This is not. Quebec is, to be sure, not consciously anti-Montreal. Its coercive merger of the city with many of its suburbs was in part an attempt to make Montreal a player on the world stage. But the premise — that bigger means better — was naive. After 11 years, the enlarged city has become unmanageable, more corrupt, more marginalized. At the heart of much of the city’s economic decline is the perpetuation of political uncertainty, thanks to the PQ’s goal of sovereignty. Yet much of the political class — including two mayoral aspirants, sovereignists Louise Harel and Richard Bergeron — won’t acknowledge the self-evident: that another referendum would further harm Montreal’s economic interests. Sad. The U.S. intelligence study might predict that cities’ power will grow as countries’ power declines, but Montreal is unlikely to be part of this trend. The rise of nationalism has coincided with a decline in the political class’s sensitivity to the city’s interests. No change is the wind. Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Henry+Aubin+city+gain+influence/7768030/story.html#ixzz2Gwu4GC4l
  10. 36 Hours in Montreal MAKE no mistake: visiting Montreal is not like going to Paris. True, the brooding facades and crooked streets of Old Montreal feel distinctly European, and yes, the locals take their French seriously. But don’t confuse this cosmopolitan Canadian port city for a fusty, Old World wannabe. Freshened up by a wave of trendy new hotels, shops and restaurants, Montreal sings its own tune — and it sounds more like Arcade Fire, the homegrown indie band, than La Marseillaise. With the city’s debilitating 1990’s recession behind it—and the specter of Québécois secession all but forgotten — a lively patchwork of gleaming skyscrapers, bohemian enclaves and high-gloss hideaways now outshines the city’s gritty industrial past. Given the weak American dollar (off about 9 percent against the Canadian dollar over the last two years), Montreal is not the bargain it used to be. But it’s still cheaper than Paris. And a lot closer. Friday 4 p.m. 1) DODGING MIMES Start in Old Montreal, and ignore the Wish-You-Were-Here postcards, skyline refrigerator magnets and street performers that clog the eastern end of Rue Saint-Paul, the area’s main drag. Instead, focus on the gas-lamped streets lined with rustic limestone buildings: this is the Montreal of romance. While you’re exploring, do a little shopping at Appartement 51 (51, rue Saint-Paul Ouest, 514-223-7648; http://www.apt51.com), a boudoirlike boutique filled with jewelry, stylish parlor furniture and crocodile bags, and Reborn (231, rue Saint-Paul Ouest, 514-499-8549; http://www.reborn.ws), another new shop that sells très chic labels like Bless, Preen and Alexandre Herchcovitch. 8 p.m. 2) FIELD AND STREAM The food is just one excuse to find out why everyone is talking about Le Club Chasse et Pêche (423, rue Saint-Claude; 514-861-1112; http://www.leclubchasseetpeche.com). Behind this young boîte’s unmarked door — save for an enigmatic coat of arms — the fashion flock joins forces with local tycoons and ladies in pearl necklaces in a cavernous interior that might be described as a Gothic-minimalist hunting lodge. Just as tantalizing are the Kurobata risotto appetizer (15 Canadian, or about $13 with $1 equaling 1.16 Canadian dollars) and lobster tail with sweetbreads (30 Canadian dollars). Saturday 9 a.m. 3) ARCHITECTURE ON WHEELS Time to work off last night’s dinner. Head to the Old Port and rent a bicycle at Montreal on Wheels (27, rue de la Commune Est, 877-866-0633; http://www.caroulemontreal.com; 7.50 Canadian dollars an hour). Follow the waterfront to the Lachine Canal, a former industrial corridor transformed into a well-manicured park. One of the last great world’s fairs was Montreal’s Expo 67. Hold onto your handlebars because you’re about to whiz past its most spectacular icons: Habitat 67 (2600, avenue Pierre-Dupuy; 514-866-5971; http://www.habitat67.com) and the Biosphère (160, chemin Tour-de-l’Isle, Île Sainte-Hélène; 514-283-5000; http://www.biosphere.ec.gc.ca). Habitat, designed by the architect Moshe Safdie, was an exhilarating experiment in modular housing: it looks like an enormous pile of building blocks. Across the Concorde Bridge, on the Île Sainte-Hélène, is the equally sensational Biosphere. Built as the American Pavilion for Expo 67, it houses a museum of hydrology, though the star attraction is the geodesic dome. Allow two to three hours for the entire excursion. 1 p.m. 4) A MILE OF HIPSTERS Follow the hipsters to the Mile-End neighborhood, and bite into a Montreal bagel — it’s a less doughy, but equally delicious, cousin to its New York counterpart. One of the best, with lox and cream cheese (4.79 Canadian dollars), can be found at Fairmount Bagel (74, rue Fairmount Ouest; 514-272-0667; http://www.fairmountbagel.com). This hole-in-the-wall has been churning them out from its wood-burning oven since 1919, an act of baking that becomes almost performance art when practiced by the quick-wristed chefs. Nearby, discover the well-heeled boutiques and restaurants of the Avenue Laurier, and then turn north onto the Boulevard Saint-Laurent, where the vibe becomes a bit more on the edge. In recent years, Mile-End has become a hotbed for Montreal’s young creative types, and the vanguard shops have followed. Make sure to visit Commissaires (5226, boulevard Saint-Laurent; 514-274-4888), a gallery of experimental furniture and design, and browse the deconstructed frocks of the local it-boy Denis Gagnon (5392A, boulevard Saint-Laurent; 514-272-1719; http://www.denisgagnon.ca). Most stores close at 5 p.m. on Saturdays. 7:30 p.m. 5) FORGET PARIS Who needs the Left Bank when you can have L’Express (3927, rue Saint-Denis; 514-845-5333). With crimson walls and checkerboard floors, this bistro-style institution in the fashionable Plateau neighborhood is a longstanding favorite among, well, pretty much everyone. One bite of the steak frites (20.75 Canadian dollars) or croque monsieur (9.10 Canadian dollars), and you’ll be a convert. 9:30 p.m. 6) POPCORN AND HEGEL Hollywood loves to film in Montreal, but you won’t find any Tinseltown blockbusters at the Ex-Centris theater (3536, boulevard Saint-Laurent; 514-847-2206; http://www.ex-centris.com; admission is 10 Canadian dollars), a futuristic temple to independent film where the ticket agents appear on video screens as disembodied heads (think Max Headroom). If you feel like talking Hegel, join the bespectacled cineastes who pontificate in the dimly lighted cafe. 11:30 p.m. 7) IS THAT CELINE DION? Ready to rock out? Continue north to Casa del Popolo (4873, boulevard Saint-Laurent; 514-284-0122; http://www.casadelpopolo.com), a vegetarian cafe that moonlights as an epicenter of Montreal’s thriving indie music scene. (Come earlier to hear the bands play, or just hang out afterwards at the bar.) Or, if you’re feeling lazy, Ex-Centris shares the block with several stomping grounds for the designer-label crowd. Start out at Globe (3455, boulevard Saint-Laurent; 514-284-3823; http://www.restaurantglobe.com) or Buonanotte (3518, boulevard Saint-Laurent; 514-848-0644; http://www.buonanotte.com), where scantily clad waitresses squeeze past dinner plates autographed by George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio and other celebrity patrons. Many Montrealers dismiss these venues as overheated feeding grounds for fashion victims and their star-gawking friends. But, heck, you’re on vacation. Sunday 11 a.m. 8) PAIN COUTURE Nurse your hangover at Café Holt (1300, rue Sherbrooke Ouest; 514-282-3750), but don’t forget your sunglasses. Set within the venerable Holt Renfrew department store, its interior is bright and airy with glass walls. Order the bread pudding served warm with peaches and chocolate (8 Canadian dollars), or the poached eggs and smoked salmon (16 Canadian dollars) — both using bread flown in from the Poilâne bakery of Paris. 12 p.m. 9) MUSéE OR MUSEUM? Ah yes, culture. A block from Café Holt, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal (1379-80, rue Sherbrooke Ouest; 514-285-2000; http://www.mmfa.qc.ca; admission is free for the permanent collection, 15 Canadian dollars for special exhibitions) has a strong collection of modern design, Old Masters and contemporary Canadian artists, including Jeff Wall and Ken Lum. A 10-minute walk away is the Canadian Centre for Architecture (1920, rue Baile; 514-939-7026; http://www.cca.qc.ca; admission is 10 Canadian dollars). This pre-eminent institution, which holds regular exhibitions on architecture and urbanism, was founded by Phyllis Lambert, the Seagram heiress best known for landing Ludwig Mies van der Rohe the commission to design the Seagram Building in New York City. Housed in a 19th-century mansion with a modern stone addition, it’s a striking contrast of old and new—much like Montreal itself. The Basics From New York, travel time to Montreal is about one hour by air, seven hours by car. Round-trip fares from LaGuardia Airport this month start at about $153 on United. The Montreal-Trudeau International Airport is just a 20 minute cab ride from downtown. Taxis within the city center generally run from 7 Canadian dollars (about $6 at with $1 equaling 1.16 Canadian dollars) to 15 Canadian dollars, but the subway is also excellent. Stay in grand style at the 61-room Hôtel Le Saint-James (355, rue Saint-Jacques; 514-841-3111; http://www.hotellestjames.com) in Old Montreal. It’s only four years old, but you wouldn’t know it. Occupying a former bank building from 1870, it’s dripping in heavy curtains, dark-paneled walls and gilt chandeliers. Enjoy afternoon tea or predinner cocktails in the elegant atrium. Rooms start at 400 Canadian dollars. It’s not the city’s newest boutique property, but the Hôtel Gault in Old Montreal (449, rue Sainte-Hélène; 866-904-1616; http://www.hotelgault.com) is arguably the most sophisticated, with hushed concrete walls and off-white floors, lightly dusted with mid-20th-century furniture. The 30 rooms are similarly spartan and spacious. Rates start at 199 Canadian dollars; 235 Canadian dollars in summer. Le Petit Prince in downtown Montreal (1384, avenue Overdale; 877-938-9750; http://www.montrealbandb.com) is a bed-and-breakfast that excels on both counts. Its six color-themed rooms are souped-up with Wi-Fi, flatscreen televisions, boat-size whirlpool tubs and, in some cases, a terrace. The young staff is attentive and makes a mean breakfast. Rates start at 150 to 250 Canadian dollars. http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/10/22/travel/22hours.html
  11. Could the Miami skyline one day resemble Manhattan’s? Apr 5th 2014 | MIAMI | From the print edition A mirror of prosperity ICON BRICKELL, a three-tower complex in Miami’s financial district, was supposed to be a flagship project for the Related Group, the city’s top condominium developer. It would boast 1,646 luxury condos, a 91-metre-long pool, and a hundred 22-foot columns in its entryway. By 2010, however, it had become a symbol of the excesses of the city’s building boom, and Related was forced to hand two of the towers to its banks. Miami condo prices plunged to 60% below their peak. The vacancy rate jumped to 60%. Predictions flew that the market, the epicentre of America’s property crash, would take ten years to come back, or even longer. The speed of the recovery has surprised everyone. Condo prices are already back near peak levels in Miami’s most desirable areas, and at 75-80% elsewhere. The available supply of units has fallen back to within the six-to-nine-months-of-sales range considered normal, from a stomach-churning 40 in 2008. Only 3% of condos are unoccupied. Sales of condos and single-family homes are above pre-crisis levels across Miami-Dade County. Commercial property, too, has rebounded, with demand outstripping supply. Developers are once again relaxed enough to crack jokes. “I call the current expansion the Viagra cycle,” jokes Carlos Rosso, Related’s president of condominium development. “We just want it to last a little longer.” The recovery has been partly driven by low interest rates and bottom-fishing by private equity, which helped to clear excess inventory. But the biggest factor is that the city nicknamed the “Capital of Latin America” has attracted a flood of capital from Latin America. Rich people in turbulent spots such as Venezuela and Argentina are seeking a safe haven for their savings. Estate agents are also seeing capital flight from within the United States. Individuals pay no state or city income tax in Miami, unlike, say, New York, whose mayor wants to hike taxes on the rich further. “Somebody said to me, ‘Give me three reasons why this will continue.’ My answer was: Maduro, Kirchner and De Blasio,” chuckles Marc Sarnoff, a Miami city commissioner, referring to the leaders of the capitalist-bashing regimes in Venezuela, Argentina and New York. Another attraction is the 40% rise in Miami condo rents since 2009, buoying the income of owners who choose not to live in the tropical hurly-burly that Dave Barry, a local author, calls “Insane City”. Brokers report increased business from Eastern Europe and the Middle East (Qatar Airways will fly direct to Miami from June), and an uptick in inquiries from Chinese buyers. Is another bubble forming already? Developers say this time is different, and in some ways it is. In a few years Miami has gone from the most- to the least-leveraged property market in America. Buyers of new condos typically have to put 50% down, half of that before building starts. Banks are loth to extend construction loans unless 60-75% of the units are already sold. In both residential and commercial projects, they require developers to put in much more equity than before. Mr Rosso says Related now puts in three times as much, which limits its ambition. The firm now has 2,000 condos in the works, a tenth of what it was building in 2007. Still, a supply glut is possible. With developers gung-ho again, around 50 towers are under construction or planned in downtown Miami (including the Porsche Design Tower, whose well-heeled inhabitants will be able to take their cars up to the level on which they live in a special lift—this is useful if you really love your car). More were added last month when Oleg Baybakov, a Russian mining-to-property oligarch, bought a trio of condo-development sites for $30m, more than triple their assessed market value in 2013. Miami’s developers are adept at using “smoke and mirrors” to hide the true number of pre-sold units, says Peter Zalewski of Condo Vultures, a property-intelligence firm. Some see the first signs of trouble. The stock of unsold condos and houses has crept up slightly since last summer. A local broker says that Blackstone, a private-equity firm with a taste for bricks and mortar, bought $120m of properties with his firm’s help in 2013 but “won’t do anything like that this year”. Mr Zalewski says banks are competing harder to finance certain projects, but this may not be a sign of unadulterated bullishness. They may simply be betting that many of the 134 towers proposed but not yet under construction in South Florida won’t get built—meaning the 57 that have already broken ground will do better than forecast. Much will depend on whether Latin Americans remain addicted to Miami property and, should their ardour cool, whether Americans and others would take up the slack. Few domestic buyers are comfortable putting 50% down, especially when most of it is at risk if the project fails. One or two developers have begun to accept 30% down, a possible sign of increased reliance on home-grown buyers. The market should get a fillip from the current and planned redevelopment of several chunks of downtown Miami. One of the most ambitious projects is Miami Worldcenter, a 30-acre retail, hotel and convention-centre complex that will feature Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and a giant Marriott hotel. A science museum will soon join the art museum . These projects build on progress made over the past decade towards becoming a world-class city, from the opening of dozens of top-notch restaurants to Art Basel picking Miami as one of the three venues for its shows (“the Super Bowl of the Art World”, as Tom Wolfe called it in his Miami novel, “Back to Blood”). Tourism is at record levels. Miami is the only American city besides New York in the top ten of Knight Frank’s 2014 global-cities index, which ranks cities by their attractiveness to the ultra-wealthy. (It comes seventh, ahead of Paris.) Property is still far cheaper than in most other cities on the list (see chart). Miami’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is dangling the city’s low taxes and lovely weather in front of companies to persuade them to move there. This is starting to bear fruit, especially in finance: Universa, a $6 billion hedge fund in California, recently agreed to relocate, following part of Eddie Lampert’s ESL. SABMiller, a giant brewer, has moved its Latin American head office from Colombia. . “I lived a long time in New York, but here [in Miami] it’s easier to make something from nothing,” enthuses Nitin Motwani, a DDA board member, who talks of the city’s skyline one day resembling Manhattan’s. Mr Zalewski is more cautious. Miami’s property market is “a great game”, he says, but “all it would take to send a chill through the entire market is one big project to go sideways.” Developers who joke about Viagra should keep some aspirin within reach, just in case.
  12. $1.5 billion is being pumped into a massive city re-design. Source: FastCompany San Juan, Puerto Rico, is not exactly the sort of place you’d imagine to be in dire need of a facelift and urban renewal. Images of a gorgeous coastline and old colonial architecture come to mind, but guess what? The old part of the city, "the Isleta," is rife with poor urban planning scars, such as inaccessible beaches due to ports and an excessive reliance on cars. The government has decided to infuse the city with $1.5 billion dollars to re-develop San Juan and, most of all, make it a walking city, with no cars allowed. The plan, announced last month, also lays out a new mass transit network, new roads and intersections, and beach access points. The motivation for the city re-design is in part due to the city’s massive decrease in population over the years (see infographic below). By making the old city more appealing, the government of Puerto Rico hopes to see more people staying put and moving in. Hey, I’ll come by if you can ensure that Mark Anthony and Jennifer Lopez won’t run me over! But in the meantime, New Yorkers, watch out!
  13. Montréal - Cool with a French accent 4 June 2008 Lewis might be driving this weekend in Montreal - but what does the city have to offer for a weekend break? Forget the “Paris of North America” cliché — Montréal, QC has always sashayed to its own unique Latin beat. Roaring back to life after more than a decade of economic woes and separatist turmoil, the 21st century has seen the city’s distinctly Québécois melange of the traditional and the hip blossom. There are buzzy new bohemian enclaves. The fashion, food and music scenes are on fire. Chic boutique hotels have upped the romantic ante. What hasn’t changed is Montréalers’ focus on leisure and their penchant for long afternoons and evenings over wine or coffee. Sound like a population hankering for endless weekends? Mais oui! Summer’s the time to visit, when the city is unleashed from a long winter and shifts into overdrive with a frenzied outdoor itinerary. Downtown sidewalks are crowded till the wee hours as the annual Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (montrealjazzfest.com) spills free jazz onto the sweltering pavements, and Just for Laughs, the world’s biggest comedy festival, lets you yuk it up in both official languages (justforlaughs.ca). Add a side trip to Québec City, celebrating its 400th anniversary with great fanfare throughout 2008. Celine Dion is scheduled to be there, as well as Cirque du Soleil. And the world’s biggest outdoor multimedia architectural projection — dreamed up by Robert Lepage and Ex Machina — will be splashed across giant grain elevators nightly at the Old Port. myquebec2008.com But back to Montréal. Start your weekend with a bowl of café au lait and a croissant or a bagel with cream cheese and lox — Montréal’s cross-cultural breakfast specialties — on an outdoor terrace while you make your plan.In Montréal, it’s all about neighbourhoods, and each has its own distinct character. Pick a boulevard, pick a theme (traditional, hip, funky, chic, ritzy, sporty, gay), then explore the collage of villages that make up Canada’s second-largest city. Old Montréal Ignore the touristy overtones and head for the gas lamps and classic cornices of Old Montréal. It’s a cobblestoned warren of tiny galleries and boutiques. Get your history at the stylish Pointe-à-Callière Museum of archaeology and history perched atop the original settlement’s ruins: 350 Place Royale, pacmusee.qc.ca. Linger outdoors to enjoy the buskers and painters or head indoors for wearable art at the eclectic Reborn: 231 rue Saint-Paul West, reborn.ws. A fave for casual lunch is Olive et Gourmando, an inspired deli/bakery gone affordably gourmet: 351 rue Saint-Paul West, oliveetgourmando.com. St. Denis Montréal is a walking town in the true European sense, and the best stroll is down French-flavoured rue Saint-Denis. Eavesdrop on the locals’ twangy, slangy peppered-with-English lingo at the very Left Bank L’Express over steak frites or duck confit salad: 3927 rue Saint-Denis. Shop at hip Dubuc, HQ for Montréal’s high-profile men’s and women’s wear designer, Philippe Dubuc: 4451 rue Saint-Denis, dubucstyle.com; or hunt the latest French styles at bargain prices at Paris Pas Cher: 4235 rue Saint-Denis. Arthur Quentin’s is the mother of all lavish French kitchenware stores: 3960 rue Saint-Denis, arthurquentin.com; and Bleu Nuit across the street stocks decadent bedroom and kitchen linens from France: 3913 rue Saint-Denis. Plateau Pub crawl through the fashionable Plateau District by following Mont-Royal Boulevard. Start at Billy Kun, with live music from classical to jazz, in an unpretentious “tavern chic” environment that includes stuffed ostrich heads mounted on the walls: 354 Mont-Royal East, bilykun.com. Dine at one of the city’s popular BYOB (bring your own wine) neighbourhood bistros; for example, intimate La Colombe, where chef Moustapha cooks up a fabulous French chalkboard table d’hote menu with influences from his native North Africa: 554 Duluth East. St. Laurent Boulevard/Mile End Funky Saint-Laurent Boulevard is the city’s east/west, French/English divide. This busy lifeline between Chinatown and Little Italy is a jumble of Old World and edgy side by side. It runs north into once-decrepit real estate undergoing a renaissance called Mile End, a vaguely defined area of everything from retro furniture to local designer boutiques. Wallpaper magazine recently dubbed it Montréal’s hottest neighbourhood. The Ex-Centris theatre is a hotbed of Indie film screenings where ticket agents’ heads are surreally projected onto video screens: 3536 boulevard Saint Laurent, ex-centris.com. Casa del Popolo is a vegetarian café that morphs into an indie music Mecca at night: 4873 boulevard Saint-Laurent, casadelpopolo.com. Then there’s down-to-earth Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen, the high temple for lined-up devotees of Montréal smoked meat: 3895 boulevard Saint-Laurent, schwartzsdeli.com. Old Port/Lachine Canal Want to burn off all those foie gras and crème brulée calories? Rent a bike at the Old Port at Montréal on Wheels: 27 de la Commune East, caroulemontreal.com. Follow the leafy bike path along the Lachine Canal that has gone from gritty-industrial hub to red-brick, factory-loft-lined park. Pass the geodesic dome and block-shaped Habitat 67, vestiges of Montréal’s Expo 67, and watch for one of the city’s best farmer’s markets, the 1930s Atwater Market, where you can pick up a baguette and cheese for a canal-side picnic. Overnighting: Old Montréal has, in recent years, become the city’s hotspot of boutique hotels with some of the most original accoms in town. Hotel Nelligan 106 Saint-Paul West, hotelnelligan.com. The classic feel of Old Montréal lingers in the very modern, brick-wall, loft-style rooms, each unique. Hôtel Gault 449 Sainte-Hélène, hotelgault.com. Minimalist, spacious and very de rigeur. Concrete and modern designer furniture make this a hipster magnet. Le Petit Prince 1384 Overdale, montrealbandb.com. A B&B with quirky style in a renovated house, each room colour themed. Funky and different with a great breakfast included. Dining: Le Club Chasse et Pêche: 423 Saint-Claude, leclubchasseetpeche.com. High-end French cuisine, one of the city’s best in what The New York Times called a “Gothic-minimalist hunting lodge.” Toqué: 900 place Jean-Paul-Riopelle, restaurant-toque.com. Chef Normand Laprise has become a Montréal icon thanks to his market-based contemporary cuisine. Au Pied de Cochon: 536 Duluth East, restaurantaupieddecochon.ca. Hardcore Québécois cuisine from pigs’ feet to poutine, taken upmarket by renegade chef Martin Picard. For more information on Montreal, go to Canada.travel. http://www.easier.com/view/Travel/Travel_Guides/article-182940.html
  14. Corruption, petty language fights don’t help Montreal’s “reputation deficit” Charles Lapointe says squabbles over a few English words on menus or in bathrooms are “ridiculous” and are “creating a troubling image of Montreal abroad.” Photograph by: Tourisme Montreal , . Charles Lapointe, president of Tourism Montreal, was uncharacteristically frank this week when he said that petty battles over language are undermining the city’s image. Perhaps it’s because he’s retiring in June that Lapointe was willing to speak out. Squabbles over a few English words on menus or in bathrooms are “ridiculous” and are “creating a troubling image of Montreal abroad,” he said. Lapointe’s remarks are timely because we’ve just been reminded that reputation is vital to a city’s financial health. The Global Financial Centres Index, a measure of how cities rank around the world as places to conduct banking, insurance, investment management and other financial transactions, has just been updated. Montreal ranked 16th in the survey, gaining one spot and finishing behind Toronto and Vancouver, but ranking just ahead of Calgary. It seems Montreal suffers from “a reputation deficit,” according to the survey’s author, Mark Yeandle of London-based Z/Yen Group, who was in town to release the latest findings. He wasn’t referring to language battles, student strikes, crumbling roads or rampant municipal corruption. Rather, he meant that the city’s financial strengths in such areas as investment management and derivatives trading are not well known and need to be promoted. Still, it’s clear that image is everything when it comes to a survey like this and it may not be long before Montreal’s troubles catch up to it. The index doesn’t attempt to measure the dollar value of financial business conducted in each city. Instead, it asks nearly 2,400 financial-services professionals to rate cities on 96 criteria. These are grouped into five main areas: the business environment, infrastructure, market access, availability of talent and cost competitiveness. No surprise that London, New York and Hong Kong hold the top three spots or that Singapore, Zurich and Tokyo follow just behind. North American cities ranking ahead of Montreal are Boston (8), Chicago (11), Toronto (12), San Francisco (13), Washington D.C. (14) and Vancouver (15). Montreal can take some encouragement from the index: it ranks ahead of such cities as Paris and Shanghai. But there are warning signs, too. Those responding to the survey placed a lot of value on such issues as the rule of law and absence of corruption. If Montreal can’t clean up its act in this regard, it may well lose business. The more we learn about the complicity between corrupt municipal officials and big local companies hungry for contracts, the less inviting this city looks as a place to do business. Reputation, the study concludes, is “very important” and “predictability is key.” Montreal, of course, isn’t the only place where there’s concern about such issues. Even top-ranked London has looked bad lately. One banker based in London commented: “London continues to receive bad news — LIBOR (the interest-rate fixing scandal), capping of bonuses, corruption — when will it end and what does it take for London to lose its top spot?” Another area of concern in the survey is taxation. “Simplicity and stability are required,” notes the study. You could take that as a reminder to the Parti Québécois government that its income-tax increases on high-income Quebecers risk making Montreal a less attractive destination for mobile financial jobs. What you have to remember is that the financial industry is a moving target; it’s evolving all the time as new centres, products and technologies emerge. When asked which centres are likely to become more significant down the road, respondents identified Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and Toronto as their top five picks for future growth. Clearly, Asia is on the move and Latin American cities are rising, too. It’s an ultracompetitive world and Montreal risks being left behind if it can’t develop its strengths. That’s where we get back to language. English does happen to be the language of international banking and finance; let’s hope that petty bureaucrats and politicians don’t get in the way of anyone wanting to expand here. The city’s French fact is already a great attraction, making Montreal a bridge between North America and Europe. Let’s not forget the importance of the other language in any growth strategy. [email protected] Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/Corruption+petty+language+fights+help+Montreal+reputation+deficit/8170678/story.html#ixzz2P5HnPZlL
  15. Première page de Bloomberg ce matin. Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Montreal got the nickname Sin City during Prohibition, when Americans crossed the border into Canada to drink, gamble and buy sex. The epithet is making a comeback this month. Allegations of price fixing, kickbacks and ties to organized crime are marring tomorrow’s election for mayor of Canada’s second-biggest city. Almost two-thirds of respondents in an Angus Reid poll released yesterday said the scandals will influence their vote. “This is Sin City all over again,” said Harold Chorney, a political science professor at Concordia University in Montreal. “Corruption is part of the history here.” Gerald Tremblay, the mayor since 2001, in September canceled a C$356 million ($330 million) pact to install water meters after La Presse newspaper reported that a city councilor vacationed on a yacht owned by the contractor who led the winning bid. Challenger Louise Harel, who leads in the polls, ousted her deputy this month after he admitted that his staff took improper cash donations. The corruption allegations are diverting attention from economic challenges facing the city of about 1.7 million people. The winner of the election faces rising costs for mass transit, policing and water, according to a May 21 Moody’s Investors Service report. Montreal has the highest debt load of any Canadian city, and ran a deficit of about C$330 million in 2008, compared with a surplus the previous year, said Ryan Domsy, senior financial analyst in Toronto at DBRS Ltd., a debt-rating company. Close Race The mayoral race is too close to call, according to an Angus Reid poll published yesterday in La Presse. Tremblay, 67, a Harvard Business School graduate, trails with 30 percent support. Harel, 63, a non-English-speaking lawyer and former minister in the separatist Parti Quebecois provincial government, leads with 34 percent. Richard Bergeron, 54, an architect who says the Sept. 11 attacks were carried out by the U.S. government and wants to ban cars from Rue Saint Catherine, the city’s busiest shopping street, is second at 32 percent. About 25 percent of respondents in the Angus Reid poll singled out transparency and the fight against corruption as the city’s No. 1 priority. Angus Reid polled 804 Montreal residents Oct. 28 and 29, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. “It’s one of the first really open races for years in Montreal,” Julie Belanger, 32, a Montreal office worker, said after an Oct. 27 candidates’ debate. “Usually you can guess who’s going to win, but this time it could be anybody.” Yacht Trips Tremblay canceled the water-meter contract, won by a group of local engineering firms, and fired two top bureaucrats after a report from Montreal’s auditor general found that elected officials lacked the necessary information before approving the project. The probe was sparked this year by a La Presse report that Frank Zampino, formerly head of the city’s executive committee, vacationed in January 2007 and February 2008 on a yacht owned by Tony Accurso, who led the group that won the water-meter order, the city’s biggest contract. Zampino retired from politics last year. Accurso’s lawyer, Louis Demers at De Grandpre Chait, didn’t return a call seeking comment. According to the auditor general’s report, the water-meter project was estimated in 2004 to cost C$36 million, about a 10th of the final contract’s price. “All of these allegations of corruption certainly don’t help Montreal’s reputation,” said David Love, a trader of interest-rate derivatives at Le Group Jitney Inc., a Montreal brokerage. “The city looks bad right now.” Sweeping Clean Harel’s Vision Montreal party based its platform on ridding city hall of its “culture of secrecy and collusion” and restoring trust in the municipal administration. Harel has called for public inquiries into the allegations of corruption at city hall, as has Bergeron’s Project Montreal party. “At first I thought a broom would be useful to clean this mess, but now I think I will need a very large vacuum cleaner,” Harel said in a television interview Oct. 28. Harel’s credibility was undermined after she forced the resignation on Oct. 18 of the head of her executive committee, Benoit Labonte, for ties to Accurso. Three days later, Labonte told Radio-Canada television in an interview that people close to him took money from Accurso, owner of Simard-Beaudry Construction Inc. Labonte said kickbacks and corruption are rampant in city hall. Maclean’s, Canada’s weekly news magazine, ran this headline on its cover this week: “Montreal is a corrupt, crumbling, mob-ridden disgrace.” “There’s an underground system,” Alex Dion, economic development officer for the borough of Montreal, said after a candidates’ debate. He said the allegations hurt Montreal’s reputation in the rest of Canada. Home of Ponzi Still, Howard Silverman, chief executive officer of CAI Global Inc., a consulting firm that helps foreign companies invest in Quebec, doesn’t think the allegations will deter investors from Montreal, the city that Charles Ponzi called home for almost a decade a century ago. Ponzi was charged in 1920 for using new funds from investors to pay redemptions by other investors, a type of fraud that now bears his name. “It’s not good for the city, it looks bad, but it won’t have much of an impact,” said Silverman, who counts investors such as London-based miner Rio Tinto Group among his clients. “Every North American or global city has its scandals or its problems.”
  16. Paul Russell: I'm from Montreal, not Montréal Tuesday's Post carried a small story about a federal policy that bans Canadians from listing "Jerusalem, Israel," as their birthplace on their passports, due to the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over the control of the city. This letter from a reader attempted to bring the issue to our shores. Never mind “Jerusalem, Israel,” just try getting “Montreal” listed as a place of birth in a Canadian passport. I was told by the pleasant passport clerk last time I applied that the city’s name is not spelled that way; "it’s Montréal.” I’m an English Canadian, I wanted to tell her — my identity is bound up with coming from Montreal, not Montréal. But I needed my passport, so I kept quiet. Oh well, que voulez-vous? Sheldon Goldfarb, Vancouver. ahhahahaah:rolleyes:
  17. With Festival Season Underway, Montreal Reflects on 10-Year Cultural Plan BY GREG SCRUGGS | JUNE 17, 2016 Summery electronic beats floated through the air alongside fragrant cheese and the occasional whiff of marijuana. Picnic blankets laden with pâté and baguettes commingled with flowing bottles of beer and wine. Families parked strollers, millennials lounged near their bikes, and techno tourists went gaga for Swedish DJ and producer Peder Mannerfelt. The occasion for such a languid Saturday afternoon earlier this month in downtown Montreal was MUTEK, a festival dedicated to electronic music and digital arts that held its 17th edition this year. Its free programming at the Parterre, a simple plaza easily converted into a performing arts venue, is just a small sampling of the festival overload that takes hold every summer in the city’s Quartier des Spectacles, a downtown cultural district that hosts most of the outdoor fêtes. Even as the 40,000 MUTEK attendees, roughly half from outside the metropolitan area, fluttered among a handful of the Quartier’s sleek venues, workers were busy maneuvering lighting trusses and erecting stages on downtown streets to accommodate the 500,000 that came for Les FrancoFolies, a French-language music festival that wraps up Friday, and the 2.5 million expected for the Montreal Jazz Festival, which starts June 26. Montreal is North America’s undisputed festival capital, with 200 annual medium- to large-size events downtown that generate over 1,000 festival days, according to the city’s Bureau of Cinema, Festivals, and Events. “For the size of Montreal, that’s pretty astounding,” says the bureau’s director, Daniel Bissonnette. The metro area of 4 million has a comparatively low GDP per capita, he points out, but through a combination of dedicated cultural infrastructure and savvy marketing, it punches well above its weight. Cities have come knocking at his door to ask what’s in Montreal’s secret sauce, he says, most recently Los Angeles. At the end of June, Bissonnette will travel to Kraków, Poland, for a meeting of a nascent, as-yet-unnamed international network of festival cities that also includes the likes of Adelaide, Barcelona, Berlin and Edinburgh. But as the city’s international festival acclaim grows, it must also continue to nurture the local cultural community, whose public arts funding is in limbo as the provincial government plans to cut back while the federal government has pledged to increase support. Plus, next year concludes the scope of the city’s 10-year cultural plan and the city council is poised to adopt a new strategy. While it’s still early for any concrete details, the bustling summer scene downtown offers some clues as to what the future might hold. The square-kilometer patch of the eastern edge of downtown Montreal demarcated as the Quartier des Spectacles was once the city’s red light district and a popular cheap housing option for artists. But it was also the home to the symphony and opera halls, a clutch of theaters and music venues, and the Museum of Contemporary Art — now MUTEK’s annual home base. First proposed in 2002, the Quartier des Spectacles came together over the last decade through a series of demolitions, rehabs and new constructions. The artists living there were, by and large, kicked out — whether by eviction or escalating housing costs as new condos came into the neighborhood. Some affordable live-work space was built in the Mile End neighborhood in exchange for the loss, but the artistic community who created the cachet for the neighborhood to become the Quartier des Spectacles was not compensated directly. While some of Montreal’s infamous strip clubs remain, it’s hardly the red light district it used to be — though red illumination on many of the Quartier’s sidewalks pay homage to its seedier days. And new construction continues apace, from outdoor spots like the Parterre and the Place des Festivals to new anchors like a fresh home for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and next year’s planned arrival of the National Film Board of Canada. The result has been a resurgence in downtown living by a more well-heeled crowd attracted to the city’s cultural offerings, which mirrors trends across North America. But while cities like Philadelphia have managed at best an Avenue of the Arts, Montreal has taken over a whole neighborhood and it continues to grow. “The Quartier des Spectacles is not a finished thing,” notes MUTEK Director Alain Mongeau. Chantal Fontaine opened a bistro two years ago in the heart of the quarter along Boulevard Saint-Laurent, which is pedestrianized during the summer festival months. “The golden age of the red light district passed a long time ago,” she says, dismissing any nostalgia for the neighborhood’s previous incarnation. Also an accomplished comedienne, Fontaine lives three blocks away and notes that she can walk out the front door of her condo at 7:45 p.m. to make an 8 o’clock show. She envisions the Quartier as the city’s answer to Broadway in New York and hopes that the city’s new cultural strategy will reflect that ambition. “International renown, that Montreal becomes an incubator of shows that tour the world,” she says. “We must value our local culture abroad, we have the talent for that.” MUTEK, meanwhile, is already doing that and downtown is essential to its identity. “If we moved to another neighborhood we’d have to remap the whole discourse of the festival,” Mongeau says. “We feel like we’re contributing to the brand of the city.” Blending culture and commerce doesn’t sit well with everyone however. “Western society is pushing us to be entrepreneur artists,” laments Ghislain Poirier, a DJ/producer and a fixture on Montreal’s music scene who has played at MUTEK in past years. In 2010, he wrote an open letter to the mayor complaining that the city was kowtowing to new condo dwellers’ noise complaints and shutting down music clubs — the very venues that made the neighborhood appealing for real estate developers in the first place. That issue has since quieted down, with Bissonnette pointing out new building codes requiring triple-pane windows, policies governing the timing of outdoor amplified sound during festivals, and municipal noise inspectors who will come to a complainant’s home to objectively measure interior sound. “That’s the price you pay to have the excitement downtown,” he says. “A park far away from downtown? That’s not how Montreal works.” Nevertheless, Poirier is convinced that the cultural geography of the city has changed as a result. “Downtown is more for performing, it’s not a place of creation,” he says. “Before it was lofts and artists. Now it’s venues and festivals, mass culture and Hollywood big events.” At the same time, such bookings are valuable and Poirier looks forward to the fat paycheck from festival gigs in the Quartier des Spectacles, which help him pay Montreal’s still affordable, but nevertheless rising, cost of living. While the trend of displaced artists is hardly unique to Montreal, the phenomenon of cultural gentrification is atypical — newer, fancier forms of culture displacing older, scruffier types. As the city prepares to plan ahead for the next 10 years, it may be time to put on the brakes, Poirier says. “There are almost too many events. We’re coming to a saturation point.” https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/montreal-festivals-10-year-cultural-plan
  18. 'Iconic' park will rise from former St-Michel dump Kevin Mio, Montreal Gazette More from Kevin Mio, Montreal Gazette Published on: August 28, 2015 | Last Updated: August 28, 2015 3:32 PM EDT What was once a quarry and garbage dump that has marred the city’s St-Michel district for decades will soon become one of Montreal’s — if not the world’s — most iconic parks, Mayor Denis Coderre said on Friday. The St-Michel Environmental Complex will be transformed into the city’s second-largest park, behind Mount Royal, beginning with several new sections that are to be opened to the public for the first time in 2017, in time for the city’s 375th birthday. The whole project is slated to be completed by 2023, Coderre said. “New York has its Central Park, Paris has its Luxembourg Gardens, London has its Hyde Park. If it is true that the major cities of the world can be recognized by their legendary green spaces, Montreal has certainly not been left out,” the mayor said as he made the announcement standing in front of what will become a 12.5 hectare wooded area and lookout in a few years. “We already have Mount Royal Park, our largest park, and in a few years we will soon have another equally iconic (park) right here,” he said. “This transformation represents one of the most ambitious environmental rehabilitation projects ever undertaken in an urban environment in North America,” Coderre said. “We are building a park out of a site that contains 40 million tonnes of garbage.” The cost of this phase of the project is $33.7 million, which the city is paying for from its capital works budget. The final price tag for the remainder of the work is not known. However, Coderre said whatever money is needed will be made available to complete the project. Once finished, the park will include thousands of trees, a lake, wooded areas, pathways, rest spots, an outdoor theatre and more. Anie Samson, the mayor of the Villeray — Saint-Michel — Park Extension borough and member of the executive committee, said the transformation shows that the impossible is possible. “Today is a big day for us and it is one more step forward toward the realization of our dreams (for St-Michel),” she said. “For the past 20 or 30 years, (residents) had a dump over there. Now it is going to be one of the biggest and nicest parks in the world,” Samson said. By 2017, just over 17 hectares of park space will be open to the public. In all, the park will occupy 153 hectares of the 192-hectare site. “A lot of people are talking about sustainable development, but what does it mean? I think we have a living proof here,” Coderre said. “We are providing today a new definition of how to revitalize an area. Frankly, at the end of the day … a lot of people are inspired by other cities. Trust me, this one will be an inspiration for the rest of the world.” Journalists were given a bus tour of the site Friday morning, which included a drive into the lowest point of the former quarry, which will eventually become the lake. It will be five times as big as Beaver Lake on Mount Royal. The lake will be filled with run-off water from the park and will be treated to make it safe to be used for boating and kayaking, but not for swimming. The second major project is a new entrance way to the park along Papineau Ave. that will include, among other things, a sliding area for winter activities, public spaces and areas where people can rest or play outdoor games such as Frisbee or flying kites. Two other sections already opened to the public will be reconfigured and new entrances constructed. There is already a pathway that rings the entire complex, but this is the first time the public will be allowed onto the landfill site. But how they will get to the park, near the corner of Papineau Ave. and Jarry St., is another question since public transit to the area is far from ideal. Coderre said they are working on a plan to address that issue. “We can have the nicest park, but it has to be accessible,” Coderre said. “We want Montrealers to be able to take advantage of the park so there will be an action plan for public transit, a mobility plan.” One challenge city officials face is how to camouflage the more than 500 wells that dot the site. They serve as monitoring stations for the biogas which is emitted by the buried garbage and the city must find a way to hide them while still allowing them to be accessible to workers for repairs. At the same time, they must prevent vandalism. The biogas is recovered and used as fuel on site by Gazmont, producing enough electricity for 2,000 homes. The company signed a new deal this year to recuperate the gas for 25 years once renovations are completed in 2016. The electricity is sold to Hydro-Québec, with the city getting 11.4 per cent of total sales per year. [email protected] http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/iconic-park-will-rise-from-former-st-michel-dump
  19. http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/montreals-economic-stagnation?__lsa=c702-331f Stagnation city: Exploring Montreal's economic decline Peter Hadekel PETER HADEKEL, SPECIAL TO MONTREAL GAZETTE More from Peter Hadekel, Special to Montreal Gazette Published on: January 31, 2015Last Updated: January 31, 2015 7:28 AM EST Prime St-Catherine St. real estate stands vacant in Montreal on Tuesday January 27, 2015. Prime St-Catherine St. real estate stands vacant in Montreal on Tuesday January 27, 2015. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette The Montreal skyline is dotted with construction cranes as an unprecedented building boom continues to unfold in condo and office construction. On the surface, at least, signs of prosperity abound. But look a little deeper and you’ll see a city that’s slipping behind the rest of the country. Over the last decade, Montreal’s economy grew by an average of just 1.5 per cent — the lowest rate among Canada’s major cities. Personal disposable income is also the lowest among the country’s eight biggest cities, and unemployment is among the highest. The bad news doesn’t stop there. Montreal is living through a period of crumbling infrastructure, widespread corruption, failed governance, inadequate fiscal power, low private investment, an exodus of head offices and an outflow of people. Even the real estate activity that’s dominating private investment in Montreal these days is of some concern to economists. They point out that it’s largely speculative and does little to improve productivity, innovation or the knowledge base of the local economy. We’re starting to see the long-term cost of the city’s economic decline. What if Montreal had simply kept pace with the Canadian average over the last 25 years? A November report from the Institut du Québec, a research group started jointly by the Conference Board of Canada and the HEC Montreal business school, found that if the metropolitan area had grown at the Canadian average since 1987, per capita income would be $2,780 higher today and income for the province as a whole would be up even more. “Despite its strengths and obvious attractions, Montreal suffers from major economic shortcomings compared with Canada’s other large urban areas,” said the report. “It fails to adequately fill its role as driver for the provincial economy.” That role becomes more important in a global economy that relies on cities as engines of growth. We are witnessing intense competition between cities for capital, talent and ideas — a race that risks leaving Montreal behind. Montreal’s economic heyday At the dawn of the 1960s, the case could still be made that Montreal was Canada’s business capital, even though Toronto was gaining fast. A black-and-white snapshot of the city’s economy looked like this: Perched at the top was a thriving financial industry, driven by banks, insurance companies, stock exchanges and investment brokers. The city was home to the head offices of the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank of Canada, as well as insurance giant Sun Life. Both the Montreal Stock Exchange and the Canadian Stock Exchange served a large community of brokerage and investment firms. A big part of the picture was a broad network of head offices in Quebec’s natural resource industry. Ste-Catherine St. W. in 1963. Montreal was once the economic capital of Canada. Ste-Catherine St. W. in 1963. Montreal was once the economic capital of Canada. Photo courtesy City of Montreal Archives Farther down the chain were the factories that made Montreal hum: metal and machinery plants, appliance manufacturers and rail-equipment makers, food processors and cigarette plants. The so-called soft sectors of the manufacturing industry were thriving in the days just before Asian imports began. Montreal was Canada’s leader in clothing, textiles, leather and shoes, with the industry providing well over 100,000 jobs. The St-Lawrence Seaway opened up the shipping industry through the Port of Montreal while the city served as headquarters for both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways. In 1962, when world-renowned architect William Zeckendorf completed the stylish Place Ville Marie office tower, it seemed to symbolize a new optimism for Montreal. What followed instead were decades of underperformance in which the city never fulfilled its promise. The head office operations of the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank gradually shifted to Toronto to take advantage of that city’s impressive growth as a financial centre. Political tensions over language and the issue of Quebec sovereignty hurt private investment and drove some of the wealthiest and best educated people out of the province. Sun Life left in a huff in 1978 after the Parti Québécois took power for the first time. The Canadian Stock Exchange closed its doors in 1974, while the Montreal Exchange lost increasing trading volumes to its Toronto rival before switching its vocation to financial derivatives. The fancy new airport built in Mirabel didn’t take off as promised, with Toronto becoming the hub for Canadian air travel. At the same time, the city’s aging industrial base felt the first effects of globalization as imports from Asia began to hurt the textile and clothing industry. The Montreal economy tried to reinvent itself and got a boost from free trade in the 1990s. Industries such as aerospace gained in importance thanks to the success of aircraft maker Bomabardier Inc. while investment also picked up in pharmaceuticals and information technology. But as the new millennium began, more negative trends had crept in: offshoring, outsourcing, contracting out. Companies had found new ways to cut costs by sending work to places like China, India and Mexico at a fraction of local wage rates. More industrial plants began to shut their doors. Gazette front page from January 7, 1978. Insurance giant Sun Life left the city for Toronto shortly after the Parti Québécois took power for the first time. Gazette front page from Jan. 7, 1978. Insurance giant Sun Life left the city for Toronto shortly after the Parti Québécois took power for the first time. Gazette file photo Failures along the way Economist Mario Lefebvre, president of the Institut de Développement Urbain du Québec, points to a number of failures along the way. Perhaps the biggest, he says, is Montreal’s inability to adapt its transportation network to the new realities of the global economy. The airport, the port, the rail network and the highway system need to work seamlessly together. “Goods and services are not produced in one place anymore, those days are gone,” he says. “Step one might be in Brazil, step two in Chicago, step three in Montreal and step four in China. To be a player in this kind of environment, goods and services must be able to come in and out of your city quickly. “We have all the means of transportation but the fluidity between them is still very complicated. There are too many decision-makers involved and we end up with projects that are not completed as rapidly as they should be.” The city’s aging industrial base remains vulnerable because it hasn’t closed the productivity gap with other jurisdictions. “We have educated people,” says Lefebvre, “but we haven’t surrounded them with state-of-the-art technology.” The private sector hasn’t done its part to renew the city’s industrial base with new machinery and equipment. And with a low rate of investment in research and development, innovation in Montreal has lagged behind the rest of the country according to measures such as the number of patents per capita. One of the biggest obstacles facing Montreal is its low rate of population growth. Among the country’s eight biggest cities, only Halifax had a lower rate of growth over the last 10 years. Montreal’s population grew at an annual average of one per cent, vs. 1.6 per cent for Toronto and nearly three per cent for Edmonton and Calgary. The low birthrate and the low rate of immigrant attraction explain part of the trend. But perhaps most serious, according to the Conference Board, is that on average more than 16,000 people a year leave the metro area for other parts of Quebec or other provinces and countries. Just holding on to that number of people each year would have added more than 450,000 to the population over the last 30 years. That would have meant more people working, paying taxes and spending money on housing, goods and services. It would have given a real boost to economic growth. So would have a stronger commitment from the provincial government to help Montreal. Lefebvre points out that the Quebec government has been pushing a Plan Nord strategy to develop natural resources in the northern regions, but what Quebec really needs is a Plan Sud that helps Montreal develop its knowledge-based economy. Closed stores on Ste-Catherine St. in Montreal Tuesday January 27, 2015. Closed stores on Ste-Catherine St. in Montreal this month. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette The payoff would be so much bigger, he argues, not only for the city but also for the province. A dollar of additional economic activity in Montreal generates at least another dollar for the province in spinoffs and benefits. Montreal funds more than half the government’s spending, 53 per cent of provincial GDP and more than 80 per cent of all research and development. Along with a Plan Sud, the government should at last recognize that Montreal needs new tools to manage its economy, Lefebvre says, including new fiscal resources and powers to promote investment, integrate immigrants and train workers. The property tax base has reached the limit of its ability to fund those new services. While such legislation has been promised, it’s not yet clear how much real power will be conferred on Montreal. The federal government has a role to play, too, Lefebvre argues. “I think we wasted an incredible opportunity when the GST was reduced by two percentage points (in 2006). A GST point is worth about $7 billion. If we had given just one point to the cities for infrastructure, that would have meant an extra $50 billion to $60 billion for infrastructure over the last eight years.” Fighting the exodus The city has suffered other blows. One is the decline in the number of head offices that call Montreal home. Between 1999 and 2012 Montreal lost nearly 30 per cent of its head offices, according to an estimate by the Institut du Québec. Toronto suffered a five-per-cent loss as economic weight shifted to Western Canada, but the impact on Montreal was far more painful. “Head office jobs are important for the indirect impact they have,” said Jacques Ménard, president of BMO Financial Group in Quebec. Head offices support a range of activities like legal, financial, accounting and advertising services. They maintain high-quality, high-income jobs and provide the city with a measure of economic influence. Part of the solution is to create more such companies in Montreal in the first place, Ménard says. Quebec is suffering from a deficit in entrepreneurship and can’t expect to replace these corporate losses without growing new success stories. “If you look at a company like Stingray Digital, it didn’t even exist seven years ago. It’s now in 110 countries,” Ménard says about the Montreal-based provider of digital music services. “I’m on the board of directors and I have seen the company grow to where it now has 200 high-paying jobs in its headquarters.” Along with the head-office challenge, Montreal is looking to become a more international place to do business, taking advantage of its multilingual and multicultural assets and its potential position as a gateway to the Americas for European and Asian trade and investment. Construction continues around the Bell Centre in Montreal Tuesday January 27, 2015. Construction continues around the Bell Centre in Montreal Tuesday January 27, 2015. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette European firms already have a significant presence here and now “there is a ton of money looking to leave Asia for investment diversification,” says Dominique Anglade, who heads the economic development agency Montreal International. Asian money represents a big potential opportunity for the city as it tries to sell itself internationally and attract both investors and professionals from abroad. People are eager to come here, she insists. “We had 300 openings on the last recruiting mission we did in Europe and for those openings there were 13,000 applicants. There’s a phenomenal attraction power, especially for workers who are educated.” Still, it’s not easy for companies and professionals to move here. Companies are often deterred by the weight of regulation and red tape in Quebec while professionals face barriers such as the recognition of their credentials or concerns about French-language requirements and schooling. When 50 top executives were interviewed last year by the Boston Consulting Group on the challenges facing Montreal, several said that the emphasis on French in the immigrant selection process restricts the pool of talent on which Montreal can draw. They argued it would be better to cast the net wider and invest more in French language promotion rather than in defensive measures. Digging ourselves out At Ménard’s request, the Boston Consulting Group looked at the experience of other cities that suffered economic difficulties and how they managed to turn around. The report focused on cities such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the U.S., Manchester in Britain and Melbourne in Australia. All have made impressive comebacks, owing largely to two common factors: a high degree of citizen engagement and a focus on infrastructure projects that have made those cites better places in which to live and work. RELATED Two Montrealers helping breathe new life into city's economy It’s one reason Ménard launched his Je vois Montreal initiative last fall in an effort to get citizens rather than governments engaged in the process of building a better Montreal. “We’ve had so much of the top-down approach — ‘We know what’s good for you,’ ” he says. “Yes there is a role for governments, but communities really thrive when citizens take ownership of their future.” Je vois Montreal has launched more than 100 projects to get the city moving again. While they are not heavy on investment or job creation, they do herald a significant change in the mindset of many Montrealers who are simply fed up with the status quo sent via Tapatalk
  20. Malek

    Buffalo

    Upstate New York cities Back in business Hope grows in two cities more accustomed to disappointment Jun 30th 2012 | BUFFALO AND ROCHESTER | from the print edition THERE is an eerie beauty to Buffalo’s waterfront. Long-abandoned buildings and unused grain elevators stand along Lake Erie’s shore. General Mills is one of the few companies that still use it—the smell of Cheerios, a breakfast cereal, permeates the air. But newer life is springing up, too. Part of the harbour, near the centre of city, has been redeveloped as a 6.5-acre (2.6-hectare) spread of parks and monuments. Twenty-one more acres of harbour land will become shops and residential space with more development to come. Main Street, most of which was closed to traffic for three decades, is being opened up and will eventually connect the centre of town to the river. One of the newest additions to the city skyline, which is known for architectural gems, is the $300m ten-storey Gates Vascular Institute/Clinical and Translational Research Centre. Things are changing for the second-biggest city in New York state. Manufacturing in upstate New York has been declining since the 1940s. Buffalo, with its access to the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence seaway, was once an economic engine, not just for the region, but for the country. But when manufacturing began to leave, with the steel industry worst affected, the city was, until very recently, unable to cope. Some 30% of the city’s population now lives below the poverty line. Buffalo is the third-poorest big city in the country; only Detroit and Cleveland are in worse shape. The population has shrunk, while the urbanised sprawl beyond the city borders tripled between 1950 and 2000. Sprawl without growth is not helpful: it leaves too few taxpayers to support local government and infrastructure. The city, like many in the rustbelt, has vast amounts of abandoned property, more than any city except Detroit and New Orleans. Yet despite these problems, Bruce Katz, of the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, says he is bullish on Buffalo. He believes the city can lead the next economic wave, one driven by advanced manufacturing, innovation and exports and powered by low carbon. Rochester, which is about 75 miles east of Buffalo, also missed the boom times. Thirty years ago, Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb employed around 60% of the region’s workforce. In 1982 Kodak, which is headquartered in Rochester, had 60,400 employees. Today it has around 5,000 and has filed for bankruptcy protection. The population of the city fell from a peak of 332,000 in 1950 to 210,600 in 2010. Almost a third of those who remain are poor. Kodak’s bankruptcy filing, in January, did not devastate Rochester only because the Kodak jobs had long left. The impact was more psychological than anything else. Most residents seem to have a grandfather who once worked at Kodak, but its effect is no longer as strong. Nowadays, much has changed. Virtually all of the workforce is employed by companies of 100 employees or fewer, according to the Greater Rochester Enterprise, a public-private outfit which markets the city to businesses. The city leads the state in job growth since the end of the recession, recovering 98% of the jobs it lost then. Indeed, there are roughly 100,000 more jobs now than there were three decades ago. The Kodak name is still a draw. Monroe Community College will move into the old Kodak complex on State Street. Companies like ITT Exelis, which developed software used by Google Earth, have also taken space in old Kodak buildings. Economic diversity helped, too. Rochester has more than 100 food and drink companies, including Wegmans, a supermarket chain and the region’s second-biggest employer. The University of Rochester is the biggest, with an economic impact of $143m in sales tax, income tax and property taxes. Five of the top ten private-sector employers in the Finger Lakes region, where Rochester lies, are in higher education and health care. Higher education is also a big employer in Buffalo; the University at Buffalo is the second-biggest employer. It has been moving its medical centre downtown, and changing a whole neighbourhood as it does so. Howard Zemsky, a local businessman, has had a similar impact. A decade ago he began to redevelop one of the city’s oldest industrial areas, known as the Hydraulics district. Today, around 30 dilapidated or abandoned sites have been transformed into an office and residential space called the Larkin District. Even an old petrol station has been converted into a retro restaurant. Groups such as Partnership for the Public Good are working together to make vacant plots into community gardens. The Centre for Urban Studies at the University at Buffalo and the city’s housing authority are combining to help a neighbourhood in need. Collaboration is essential, says Byron Brown, Buffalo’s mayor. “Right people! Right place! Right time!” And timing and place are both part of the reason that Andrew Cuomo, the governor, pledged $1 billion earlier this year to help revive the economy of Buffalo and western New York state. Mr Katz is helping the region develop a plan to use that $1 billion effectively. “This is about the long term,” he says. “It will be the gift that keeps on giving.” http://www.economist.com/node/21557797
  21. March 15, 2009 ON THE HOMEFRONT By JONATHAN MAHLER A few years ago, while working on a profile of Mayor Bloomberg for this magazine, I had dinner with his deputy mayor for economic development, Dan Doctoroff, at an Italian restaurant in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. At the time, the city was flush with cash — weeks earlier, it reported a budget surplus of $3.4 billion — the Dow was above 12,000 and still climbing and Doctoroff was presiding over a long list of extensive public-private projects across the five boroughs, bold strokes of urban re-engineering reminiscent of the days of Robert Moses. As a violent summer storm raged outside, Doctoroff sketched out for me Bloomberg’s ambitious plans for New York. The rail yards and warehouses of the far West Side would be replaced by condos, hotels and retail stores. Thousands of apartment units and a new arena for the Nets would rise on the site of the Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn. Penn Station would undergo a gut renovation (and be renamed after Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan). Lower Manhattan would be transformed into a recreational playground, with cafes, performing-arts pavilions, ball fields, an outdoor ice rink, even a floating garden on the East River. I’ve been thinking a lot about that dinner over the past several months, while watching the Dow plummet and the city’s unemployment rate soar. All of Bloomberg’s mega-projects are now indefinitely delayed, victims, in part, of the credit crunch and the mounting municipal deficit. Even if he’s elected to a third term, the mayor probably won’t ever realize his grand vision for New York. And yet his legacy is already visible on the city’s landscape. It is less sweeping, perhaps, but no less significant: he empowered the private sector to remake the city bit by bit. This was partly a function of the way Bloomberg ran New York, a natural byproduct of his ability to govern the ungovernable city. “The perception under Bloomberg has been that New York is a good place to do business, and that’s very important for developers,” says Jonathan Miller, one of the city’s best-known real estate appraisers. But it was also deliberate. Bloomberg is a businessman. He believes in growth and has faith in the private sector. His administration expedited permits and signed off on building designs with minimal interference. It also freed up underutilized land — old piers, elevated freight lines, warehousing districts, rail yards — either by rezoning or by threatening to employ its powers of eminent domain. In many cases it offered attractive incentives, most notably tax breaks, to encourage companies to build. The administration did its share of construction too, adding parks across the boroughs and along the city’s long-neglected waterfront and, in partnership with private developers, initiating New York’s largest affordable-housing project in decades. You don’t have to be an architect or an urban planner to recognize how much the city was transformed along the way. Walk around most neighborhoods in Manhattan and many neighborhoods in the outer boroughs, and you will be confronted with new construction, whether the steel-and-glass condominium complexes that tower above the old factories and warehouses on the rezoned waterfront of Greenpoint and Williamsburg; the 43-story headquarters for Goldman Sachs that recently sprouted in Lower Manhattan (thanks, in part, to a generous financial incentive from the city); or the two virgin ballparks where the Yankees and Mets will soon open their 2009 seasons (with the help of big municipal tax breaks and an enormous infrastructure investment in the stadium’s respective neighborhoods). All of these structures represent the newest layer in a cityscape that bears witness to the cyclical nature of New York’s economy. The post-Civil War bonanza, when New York cemented its status as the nation’s commercial and financial capital, produced the iconic cast-iron structures of today’s SoHo; the city’s ur-luxury apartment building, the Dakota; and such Beaux-Arts masterpieces as the American Museum of Natural History. (Not to mention a park, Central Park, laid out on an undesirable strip of land that had housed pigsties, slaughterhouses and shantytowns.) It was during the Roaring Twenties that many of the city’s most recognizable steel skyscrapers — the Chanin and Chrysler buildings, among them — sprang to life. Post-World War II peace and prosperity ushered in a wave of Modernist structures like the Seagram Building and Lever House. The “greed is good,” precrash 1980s brought another real estate boom to New York, though one with a limited impact on the physical appearance of the city. Much of the development community’s energy was focused on converting rental units into co-ops. The new construction was largely confined to the island of Manhattan and, with the notable exception of the handiwork of a young real estate mogul named Donald Trump, was generally unremarkable. During the most recent binge, with property values soaring and capital readily available to both builders and buyers, developers didn’t bother with generic, low-slung apartment buildings and conversions. Soaring glass condo towers sprang up everywhere. New York, long criticized for its lack of cutting-edge architecture, became a destination for celebrity architects like Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Charles Gwathmey and Renzo Piano. That era is over. Since November, some $5 billion worth of development has been delayed or canceled. New York is again a city of abandoned lots, half-finished buildings and free-floating anxiety. “At this particular moment, I think that everyone who is honest with themselves can’t but help think about 1929, which came at the end of an extraordinarily fertile period for architecture,” says Robert A. M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture and designer of the apartment building 15 Central Park West, which in 2007 earned the distinction of being the highest-priced new apartment building in the history of New York. Even for the rare developers who still have credit lines, there’s the separate question of whether they want to bring a new building to a market with vacancy rates climbing all over the city. The city has been here before. Work on the Empire State Building was completed in 1931, when the Great Depression was already under way. Renters were scarce — so scarce, in fact, that the city’s tallest skyscraper became known as “the Empty State Building.” Not until 1950 did it become profitable. During the 1970s, those infamous years of white flight and urban blight, the city was so broke and certain neighborhoods so desperate and depleted that one former city-housing commissioner, Roger Starr, suggested that New York simply cut off services to them and let them die — “planned shrinkage,” he called it. The current downturn, like the previous downturns, is not something to celebrate; the city and its residents will suffer. But the building boom, while breathing new life into a number of long-struggling neighborhoods, was problematic in its own right. New York got some first-class architecture, but it also got more than its share of eyesores, and the proliferation of luxury-condo towers accelerated the regrettable transformation of Manhattan into an island of the wealthy. Too much of the new construction did nothing to enrich the fabric of the city. “Here we practice the art of the deal, not the art of the city,” as the architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable has put it. The downturn will give New York a chance to pause and reflect on this period of hyperactive development, and to think about what sort of buildings it needs in the future. Better still, the absence of private capital may spur federal investment that could enable the city to not simply patch up its deteriorating infrastructure but to reinvent it for a new, greener era. “Even though we’ve come through a period of real economic development, we have an infrastructure that badly needs investment and imagination,” says Vin Cipolla, president of New York’s Municipal Arts Society. For its part, the Bloomberg administration has no intention of scaling back its Moses-like ambitions. When I spoke recently with Doctoroff, who is now president of Bloomberg L.P., he told me that he and his colleagues had always envisioned their grand scheme as part of a long-term plan for New York. They never assumed they could outrun the next bust. “We are now in the middle of the 12th serious downturn since New York became a major financial center in the early 19th century,” Doctoroff said. “The lesson of every single one of these previous 11 busts is that the city always comes back stronger than ever. History is perfect on that one.” Jonathan Mahler is a contributing writer. His most recent book is “The Challenge: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight Over Presidential Power.” Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company Privacy Policy Search Corrections RSS First Look Help Contact Us Work for Us Site Map http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/realestate/keymagazine/15Key-lede-t.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=future%20of%20skyscrapers&st=cse
  22. Un autre article flatteur du NYTimes. Ça devient presque lassant.... http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/travel/15hours.html + des photos de Mtl. Nice. http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/08/15/travel/36HOURSMONTREAL-9.html
  23. Du Globe and Mail In Montreal, delicate design gestures help us forget the big scandals By day and by night, there are adults flying through the air at Montreal’s Quartier des Spectacles on oversize, colourful swings. Streams of cyclists whip by on dedicated bike paths. Warmed by the spring sunshine, students and gallerygoers lounge on the steps at Place des Arts, where the joys of museum, opera and symphony are recognized with fortissimo. It would seem that everything is just as it should be in Montreal, where bonhomie thrives and an art has been made of small-scale urban architecture. In the leafy neighbourhood of Saint-Louis, where many artists have made their homes, the ghost of architect Luc Laporte lives on. From an 1880s commercial building on Rue St. Denis, he punched a generous, rounded arch through the masonry to connect his instant landmark bistro directly to the street; rather than depending on loud signage, he preferred to emphasize the building as sign. L’Express is a classic, with a heated, black-and-white tiled front terrace, still beloved – still packed – 33 years after he designed it. But the sweetness of the small architectural intervention is sadly being offset these days by the weight of large public works gone wrong. The corruption charges levelled against Montreal politicians have contaminated the reputation of the venerable metropolis. Last October, the city froze all non-essential public-works projects following widespread allegations of impropriety. With more arrests being made and former mayor Gérald Tremblay now ousted from office, it’s as if a slick of toxic oil is creeping along the streets, darkening the large civic projects touched by city builders and the SNC-Lavalin engineering firm. The Montreal-based global entity had its tentacles in many of the big public-sector works in the city, including the Maison Symphonique, with its handsome wood-lined concert hall but bargain-basement public lobbies; the shiny new planetarium on the eastern edge of the city; and the still-incomplete McGill University Health Centre hospital, a massive behemoth, estimated to cost $2.35-billion, and as ugly as its multilevel parking garage. It’s impossible to travel through these facilities without contemplating what troubling scenarios might have gone on. For now, then, it’s the modest, meaningful works of architecture and joyous pop-up landscapes that are left standing with integrity fully intact. Like the fans of L’Express, Montrealers are right to turn to them as places that citizens can depend on. In the open, and often under the open sky, is where the healing can begin. When, during last weekend’s Portes Ouvertes, I walked the city’s streets touring dozens of young architecture firms and funky design studios in former textile warehouses, the joy of their public-space work was intoxicating. Wanted, a two-person landscape-architecture firm, finds its motivation in the power of design to effect social change – or simply to contribute more urban comfort and delight. Last summer on Victoria Street, next to the McCord Museum of Canadian History, Paula Meijerink and Thierry Beaudoin installed an urban forest of cushy carpets of purple turf, artificial palm pavilions and curvey benches. People lounged with friends; couples posed among the outlandish neon set piece for their wedding pictures. This month, alongside the McCord, Wanted installs a temporary urban forest – ash trees with their root balls in massive sacks. Further east at Quartier des Spectacles, the colourful swings, suspended from white steel box frames, have been custom-designed by a six-person studio called Daily tous les jours. Back by popular demand for a third summer, 21 Balançoires (check out the video at vimeo.com/40980676), notes studio principal Mouna Andraos, comes complete with a musical score: The more people swing, the more intricate the melody becomes. The studio has also produced massive sing-a-longs at fairgrounds outside of Minneapolis-Saint Paul and Dallas, offering large microphones and Auto-Tune to evoke decent collective sound. An installation of projections and sound that they hope will inspire audiences to move like the stars or the Earth is being prepared by Daily tous les jours for the $48-million planetarium. The planetarium’s design features rounded, wood-clad cinemas that push out on the upper levels as aluminum-clad cononical shapes between slanted green roofs. Designed by the city’s competition-winning Cardin Ramirez Julien & Aedifica, with, among other consultants, SNC-Lavalin, the three-level building will help anchor the Olympic grounds. “It’s definitely a shame, the huge problem the city has,” says Andraos, referring to the corruption scandals. “We’re hoping that some of the projects that we do can create exchanges for people in public spaces, and spark a sense of ownership.” In the Plateau district, a group of us – including journalists from international design media; Marie-Josée Lacroix, director of Montreal’s Bureau du design; and Élaine Ayotte, a member of the city’s newly formed executive committee responsible for culture and design – are led on a tour that begins by paying design homage to Laporte, who died in 2012. Heritage advisor Nancy Dunton leads our group to a stunning row of grey limestone townhouses fronting onto genteel Saint-Louis Square. Distinctive black steel railings and simple stone stairs on the Victorian exteriors are the work of Laporte, a man variously described as a bon vivant and a curmudgeon, who was often given commissions by local residents who knew him well. We file into Laporte’s still-functioning live-work studio: At the front, an efficient bar/kitchen – designed with the rigour of a boat’s cabin, complete with built-in cabinets and espresso-maker – sits alongside a work table with shelves lined with historic architecture books. An old photo of the staff at L’Express is propped on the white tile floor. Toward the back of the long, narrow space, Laporte had renovated a horse stable to become his studio, and, past delicate glass doors, a small terrace where vines grow up a brick wall. It was from here that he designed many of Montreal’s most enduring bars and restos, including the elegant Laloux (1980) with its seamless black-steel front entrance and cream-coloured walls of black-framed mirrors; and the high-end housewares boutique Arthur Quentin (1975) with walls and ceiling lined and strapped in plywood. Human-scaled and warm to the touch, these are the places that never stop giving back. They continue to amuse and endure in ways very different from those who choose to become their city‘s laughing stock.