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  1. Reclusive billionaire Robert Miller built a business empire far from the public eye. Now, a bitter divorce has thrown his legacy into question. By Joe Castaldo From Canadian Business magazine, September 27, 2010 http://www.canadianbusiness.com/managing/strategy/article.jsp?content=20100927_10022_10022&page=1 To say Robert Miller is a reluctant interview is a grand understatement. He has avoided attention his entire career, and there are no doubt countless activities he would much rather be doing right now than standing in his opulent office with a reporter. He has previously given a single media interview since co-founding Future Electronics Inc., a multinational distributor of electronic components based in Pointe-Claire, Que., that generates nearly $4 billion in revenue each year. Miller is the sole owner. He has never authorized a picture of himself to be published, and his name is rarely, if ever, attached to his extensive charity work. Miller does not do public appearances. He will never be seen at a ribbon-cutting ceremony or posing with an oversized novelty cheque. His desire for privacy has been his most identifiable trait — aside from his wealth. This magazine estimated his net worth last year at $1.19 billion. Forbes magazine valued him at US$2.5 billion. In the absence of any visible public image, the one surrounding Miller is that of an eccentric billionaire recluse. But now he has welcomed a reporter into his office, extending a large hand and wearing a warm smile. He is a tall, lanky man with a slightly stooped posture, sporting a pair of chunky black orthopedic shoes and rimless glasses. At 65, his hair is tinged with grey. He says he would like to write a book about Future Electronics some day. "It's an amazing story," he says in a gravelly baritone. "It could fill 600, 700 pages." The meeting comes at a time when the comfortable, profitable obscurity in which both Miller and his company have operated is threatened. He is in the midst of a long-running and acrimonious divorce proceeding with his ex-wife, Margaret Antonier, which has thrown this most private of men and his business empire into an unflattering spotlight. The pair was married for nearly 38 years before Miller filed for divorce in 2005. Assets likely totalling hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, are at stake, but the exact details of the proceedings are sealed in a Montreal court. The legal battles do not end there. In June, Miller filed lawsuits in Florida and Montreal against Antonier and the real estate development company they co-own, Miromar Development Inc. He is alleging Antonier and another executive are shutting him out of the company, and have even siphoned money from the firm. Antonier's lawyers, meanwhile, have accused Miller of "horrendous personal behaviour," the specifics of which are outlined in a filing Miller's lawyers have requested the court keep sealed. A Florida newspaper picked up on the case, followed by the Journal de Montreal, which splashed a picture of Miller across its front page, the first photo of him ever published. What it all means for the business empire he built remains to be seen. For Miller himself, it means reluctantly inching from the shadows to take hold of his public image. But that image is anything but simple. Current and former employees — even competitors — describe him as a genius and a visionary. Everything about him, from the way that he operates his company and interacts with employees to the many varied causes he supports (cryogenics research, for one) contribute to the image of a tycoon unlike any other. The more he reveals, the question "Who is Robert Miller?" becomes all the more difficult to answer. The basic biographic details are simple enough: Miller was born in 1945 and raised in Montreal, and later studied at what was then called the Rider Business College in New Jersey. He worked as a radio disc jockey in New Jersey in the 1960s, where his music program, The Bob Miller Show, aired three hours a day during the week and six hours on Sundays. He moved back to Montreal and joined a small wholesaler called Specialty Electronics. Owner Ben Manis, an acquaintance, hired him. Miller threw himself into the job and became close with Manis's son, Eli, who also worked at Specialty. But the younger Manis eventually had a disagreement with his father and left the company. Miller suggested he and Eli go into business for themselves. In 1968, they started Future Electronics out of a small rented office in Montreal. They essentially acted as middlemen, buying obscure electronic parts from component manufacturers and selling them to makers of finished products, ranging from consumer goods to industrial equipment. Manis says he came up with the name. "I just sort of said, let's forget the past. Look to the future," he says. The company grew steadily, and Miller proved to be a workaholic. To Manis, who didn't share his partner's devotion, it wasn't evident Miller had any outside interests. "Something came into his head, and he said, 'What do I need him for?'" Manis recalls. In 1976, Miller bought his partner's half of the company for $500,000. Future operated differently nearly from the start. Distributors in this industry are essentially stores for electronic components, but typically try to limit their inventory, reducing costs and risks. Component prices are volatile, and no one wants to sell product at a loss. Instead, Miller bought large quantities of components when they were cheap. He then charged a significant markup selling to equipment manufacturers when demand hit. Put crudely, Miller made his name as a speculator in electronic parts, and he's an exceptionally gifted one. One former vice-president who asked to remain anonymous recalls only one slip-up in his 15 years at the company, and there were consequences. "Some people were demoted," he says. Miller is often credited with having an intuitive sense of the market, but his moves are based on excellent intelligence. He got to know many of the executives at component makers in part to find out where manufacturing would be constrained. "Just through networking, he got a feel for what commodities would be hot," says the former VP. Holding inventory has another major advantage. "We became known for being the one place you could go to and always find product," says Gregg Smith, another former vice-president, adding that was how Future won new customers. The model works because Future is privately held. Building out the infrastructure to hold loads of inventory is expensive and tough to justify to shareholders. So too are speculative bets. But as the sole proprietor, Miller is accountable only to himself. Today, the product marketing department, mostly housed at headquarters, is the heart of the company. The department buys from suppliers and sets resale prices for Future branches across the world. Competitors assign product marketers to work with specific suppliers, but Miller turns the model on its head. His employees focus exclusively on a component group, becoming experts able to see trends in the market for specific parts. The job is demanding. "The phone is ringing non-stop," recalls a former employee. "It would be usual to have three or four lines on hold while taking another call and trying to close a deal." The pace takes its toll on some. One former employee recalls developing migraines, another, stomach pains. (Future has a medical clinic on-site). Lindsay Blackett worked at Future for six years in sales and marketing, and is now Alberta's culture minister. "Politics, people think it's hardball. But it's nothing compared to Future," he says. In the 1990s, when Blackett worked at Future, Miller would call up individual workers on the floor to inquire about particular deals. "That could be very intimidating, or very rewarding," he says. "He knew what everyone was doing in that building." Competition thrives at Future, which not everyone can handle. "Robert Miller sat on a cloud like Zeus and said, 'Go at it, boys,'" recalls the former VP. "He saw that through confrontation, people would excel." Those who do perform rise quickly through the ranks, and salespeople can make hefty commissions. More than 10 years ago, Future bought massive amounts of tantalum capacitors, used in mobile devices, before the wireless boom hit. When it did, supply was scarce — except at Future. The company sold millions of them a month with a markup as high as 2,000%. Gross profits were so large that for a couple of years, Miller held monthly meetings with sales staff in the auditorium. He handed out their commission cheques individually, from smallest to biggest, announcing the sum for all to hear. The largest topped six figures. Those at the bottom were driven, not only by the desire for bigger commissions but out of embarrassment, to make more and bigger sales. Employees who have little interaction with Miller tend to regard him with a mixture of apprehension and awe. Spotting their boss loping through the hallways is akin to a celebrity sighting. Usually the only opportunities for many to lay eyes on their leader are the addresses he gives roughly once a quarter. He'll often speak for well over an hour, sometimes two. "I always say the intellectual property for Future Electronics is Robert's brain," says Lindsley Ruth, a corporate vice-president. Even employees many years removed from the company still respectfully refer to him as Mr. Miller. Those who work more closely with Miller say he offers plenty of encouragement and room to be entrepreneurial. A few years ago, Jamie Singerman, currently a corporate vice-president at the company, was rolling out a new division called Future Lighting Solutions, which is focused on the LED market. Future didn't have expertise in that area, and building it up required lots of investment. "I went in with a presentation," Singerman recalls. Miller didn't look at it and instead asked if it was the right thing to do. "I said yes, and he said, 'Done.'" Miller is sometimes unpredictable, however. A few years ago, some of the product specialists in Montreal were told not to come in for a month to allow their managers to fill in and become more knowledgeable about the parts the company was dealing with. A former product specialist says many of his colleagues felt they would no longer be needed, and started looking for other jobs. The managers, meanwhile, were overworked and started polishing up their resumés, too. "If the exercise was a natural culling exercise," says the former employee, "it worked." The first time people outside the industry heard of Future Electronics or Robert Miller came on May 7, 1999, when some 30 RCMP officers, in the presence of an FBI agent, raided corporate headquarters. They toted away dozens of boxes of material for reasons officials would not disclose. The company's lawyers successfully fought in court to keep investigators from looking at the seized material, arguing the search was unjust. After six months of media lawyers wrangling in court, the search warrant detailing the reason for the raid was unsealed by the Supreme Court of Canada. The U.S. Department of Justice alleged Future was defrauding a handful of U.S.-based suppliers out of approximately US$100 million a year. The company was accused of maintaining two sets of accounting records — one real, one false — and only Miller and select executives, dubbed the A-Team, had access. The false records were allegedly used to take advantage of debits and rebate programs from suppliers so that Future could pad its margins. Miller never spoke to the press, but Future issued statements denying any wrongdoing and calling the allegations "absurd." There were also whispers the whole investigation was sparked by disgruntled ex-employees, and based on a misunderstanding of how the distribution business worked. More than a year later, Future's lawyers succeeded in quashing the search warrant that justified the raid, and the seized material was returned without having been examined. Nearly three years after the initial search, the U.S. Department of Justice dropped its investigation entirely. Neither that investigation nor anything else has kept Miller from expanding his company to become the fourth-largest electronics distributor in the world. Future Lighting Solutions is booming, scaling up from virtually nothing in 2004 to nearly $350 million in revenue today. The division, which doesn't simply distribute parts but works with customers to meet specific lighting needs, could some day rival the size of the components business. The company is also re-launching a division called Future Active Industrial that focuses on the countless smaller customers generally ignored by larger distributors. The beneficiaries of Future's success spill far beyond the company's headquarters. Miller committed years ago to giving away more than half his earnings to charity. Much of it goes to employees and their families. Miller receives many letters from employees seeking help, often for medical issues. Gina Galardo joined Future 17 years ago as an administrative assistant, but over the years, fielding these requests eventually took over her job. Lori-Ann MacDonald was brought on six years ago to assist. In an interview in a Future boardroom, they explain that when a letter comes in, they conduct research to find the best doctors or specialists, book appointments, provide moral support or anything else that needs doing. Miller has a deep interest in medical research with extensive connections in the community, and can usually immediately recommend a doctor or clinic. He has paid for expensive medical procedures for countless employees, and finds time for hospital visits and phone calls. "Should we get the binders?" MacDonald asks. She makes a phone call, and two other assistants enter, each with two five-inch-thick binders in their arms. The binders are brimming with letters and thank-you cards from employees, organized alphabetically by name. Galardo and MacDonald are soon lost recounting the stories on each page. There is even a section on Ben Manis, the man who hired Miller at Specialty Electronics back in 1967. Manis is in his mid-90s today. Miller employed him at Future for a time and set him up with an apartment across from headquarters. He now supports Manis's accommodations in a seniors' residence, and has allotted money for his funeral. The two have lunch plans for Manis's 100th birthday, however. "I think this sums up Mr. Miller," Galardo says, turning the page. The allegations being made in a Florida civil court against Miller by his ex-wife stand in stark contrast to the benevolent man who never says no to a worthy cause. Miller married Margaret Antonier in 1967. They had two sons, and Antonier remained an active businesswoman. She originally worked in radio advertising, and in 1988, Miromar Development Inc. was formed and received financing from Future Electronics. Miller and Antonier each own 50% of the real estate firm, and Antonier serves as chief executive officer. "I have learned the business from the ground up," Antonier wrote in response to e-mailed questions. "I am pretty hard on myself when it comes to succeeding." Miromar built Canada's first outlet mall, in Montreal, and in the mid-1990s, began developing properties in Lee County, Fla., including an 1,800-acre residential resort with a private beach and golf course. Employed at Miromar was Robert Roop, who had worked at Future for 20 years prior. He served as the company's chief financial officer at the time he resigned and moved to Florida to work at Miromar with Antonier. The lawsuit against the firm states Antonier and Roop became "romantically involved," but does not specify when. In 2005, for reasons that remain under seal in a Montreal court, Miller filed for divorce. Antonier's lawyers in Florida say she filed a demand in the divorce proceeding for Miller's stake in Miromar, a company "she created and operated for decades," be transferred to her and that loans owed to Future Electronics by Miromar be forgiven. Miller sought a valuation of Miromar's assets, and in 2008, he filed a lawsuit in Florida to get access to its corporate records that he was allegedly being denied. The case plodded on until February, when Miller voluntarily dismissed it. But in June, Miller filed new lawsuits in Florida and Montreal, including a declaration from Frank Holder, a senior manager at a forensic consulting firm hired to probe Miromar. Holder concluded Antonier and Roop are violating Miller's rights as a shareholder and director in Miromar by excluding him from the company, and refuse to provide full access to corporate documents. He also claims to have discovered Antonier and Roop engaging in "various acts of misconduct, including theft and diversion of corporate funds." Miller is seeking for a receiver to be put in place. Lawyers for Antonier in Florida refute all of the charges and dismiss Holder's account as baseless, arguing criteria for installing a receiver have not been met. They also contend the suit is designed to delay the divorce proceedings, alleging "wrongful acts" on Miller's part and arguing he has a "desperate desire to avoid the consequences of the Canadian divorce proceedings." That case is sealed, and it is unknown what either party is seeking in those proceedings. None of the allegations in the Miromar litigation have been proven in court, and neither side will comment on the cases. But the disputes and the resulting publicity cut very close to the bone for Miller. Not even during the three-year-long ordeal with U.S. authorities did he speak with reporters. But after researching Future Electronics for weeks, this magazine received a call from the company's general counsel with an almost unprecedented invitation: Miller was willing to sit down and talk. Miller is reticent to say too much about himself or the company. He wants to save the best material for the book. But he has agreed to an interview, provided it is not recorded. Similarly, he would not pose for a photograph. He certainly is not afraid of the camera, however. Hanging on the wall opposite his desk are two huge portraits, one of Miller solo in a suit, another of him shaking hands with Quebec Premier Jean Charest. His aversion to published photographs, he explains, stems from his desire for security for himself and his sons. Miller speaks slowly, but has an intense manner. He leans forward when talking, his bushy eyebrows shooting up when he wants to emphasize point, and rarely breaks eye contact. He has a habit of saying whatever pops into his head. While making a point tangentially related to health, he offers that "I have colonoscopies with startling regularity." He also has a knack for numbers. He can remember exactly when Eli Manis phoned him to say he had quit Specialty Electronics: Nov. 20, 1968, at 4:45 p.m. The phone number at Future Electronics' first office? 418-7701. The number of stairs leading up to that office? Thirty-two. He politely deflects most personal questions. He is more comfortable expounding on Future's unique operating model — based on inventory and market research, rather than pipelining product. "It's so basic that it amazes me that our competitors don't recognize the benefit of having inventory," he says. "Inventory drives sales." He attributes much of the company's success to its privately held status. As a sole proprietorship, it can move much more quickly than its competitors. The fact that Miller doesn't have to answer to shareholders or a board of directors also allows Future to offer the longest customer payment terms in the industry, up to 180 days. "Our competitors can't compete with us. They would be clobbered if they did that," he says. The possibility of taking Future public has never seriously crossed his mind. Miller says he had no business mentors. "It all came to me. It's a gift. I just knew what to do," he says. A strange, metaphysical thread runs through some of his other explanations for his success. Take his work ethic. There was a time he worked 765 days in a row, without a day off, and rarely left the office before 11 p.m. He accounts for this drive by telling a story of walking the streets of Montreal once as a teenager and seeing a red Thunderbird convertible. He knew he had to have one some day. "I recall talking to myself. I said, 'Boy, you're really special.' I think that was a real turning point." He pauses. "But I had just been swimming, and I later read swimming releases endorphins. It's a natural high." He reached another turning point in the early-1970s, when his motivation shifted from material wealth to something larger. When one of his acquaintances passed away, Miller was one of only three people to attend his funeral. "I didn't want that to be me," he says. Charity took on a greater importance from that moment. In fact, growing Future's profits in order to have more money to give away is his primary motivation. "I believe you give till it hurts," he says. Talking about specific causes would take hours, he adds, but he does tell a story of a former employee diagnosed with cancer. Miller sent her to a specialist and ultimately paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for her treatment. "Your encouragement ... for treatment gave me the last three years of my life," she wrote to Miller in a letter delivered after her death in 1995. Nearly all of his charity work has been done anonymously. "I'm not seeking attention," he says. The one area to which Miller's name has been attached is cryogenics research. The Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona has even described Future Electronics as its greatest benefactor. "These people are doing so much," he says. "They're pure, pure people." There have long been rumours Miller will have himself cryo-preserved when he dies. "I'll leave it to my sons to decide," he says. He is in good health today, though. In fact, he recommends the line of "life extension" vitamins marketed by the foundation. "They're the finest vitamins known to man," he boasts. "You should take them." After talking for a couple of hours, Miller signals an end to the interview. It's 10:30 p.m., and he's been awake since five in the morning. He walks to the door, again proffering his hand and a smile. There are still many unanswered questions: the backstory to all of the legal proceedings, what he has in store for Future, and whether his new-found openness will last. But he's closed the door. We'll have to wait for the book.
  2. Middle-class communities disappearing Big increase in poor neighbourhoods in Toronto and more rich districts, according to U of T study February 08, 2009 Daniel Dale STAFF REPORTER "PRIMO PIZZA," the sign reads. "SINCE 1965." Like the store's walls, it is green and white and red, the colours of the Italian flag, and, on the left, there is a cartoonishly mustachioed man carrying a pepperoni pie above his head. This could be any Italian-owned pizza joint in the city. It was indeed Italian-owned until last year. Then a man named Rocky sold it to a man named Abdul. Abdul Malik, a 43-year-old Indian immigrant, kept its name and its oven and its sauce and its dough. He made just one addition to the top right corner of the sign, easy to miss if you're darting in from the cold, above the shop's phone number. "Halal 100%." "Some people, when they see the sign `halal,' they don't come," said Malik, who also drives a taxi. "We're losing some customers. But we're gaining other types of customers." The neighbourhood known to Statistics Canada as Census Tract 354 is changing. A community of 1950s red-brick bungalows, sturdy front-lawn maple trees and long, narrow driveways, it seems the very embodiment of white middle-class suburban Canadiana. But like the rest of Scarborough, it is decreasingly white. And by University of Toronto Professor David Hulchanski's definition, it is no longer middle-class. Later this year, Hulchanski – associate director for research at the U of T's Cities Centre – and a team of researchers will release an update of their 2007 report The Three Cities within Toronto. Their new analysis of data from the 2006 census confirms a trend they found in the first study: the income gap between Toronto's rich areas and poor areas is growing, while its middle-income neighbourhoods are disappearing. Hulchanski's findings, in aggregate, are dramatic. At the micro-level of this individual neighbourhood, however, the impact of relative economic decline is not unlike Malik's change to the pizza shop's sign. Significant, certainly, but subtle. Between 1995 and 2005, the 5,225-person census district, roughly bordered by Lawrence Ave. E. to the north, Knob Hill Park to the south, Brimley Rd. to the west and McCowan Park to the east, gained 1,020 members of visible minority groups. They now comprise more than 55 per cent of the population, up from about a third in the 1990s. Most of the newcomers came to Canada this decade or last from South Asian countries – predominantly India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Like recent immigrants of all types, many of them struggle to make an adequate living. The area's average individual income in 2006 – $29,929 – was 25 per cent lower than the average for Toronto census districts: $40,074. Hulchanski classifies areas 20 per cent or more below the city-wide average as low-income; according to him, this area has been low-income since at least 2000. Yet ask long-time white residents to classify their neighbourhood and they will inevitably call it middle-class. Ask them to describe recent demographic changes and they will think for a moment, then point down the street to a house an Indian family bought from a British couple, or around the corner to another now owned by Sri Lankans. "When we moved in almost 30 years ago – we moved in '79 – there were more Anglo-Saxon people," said Filomena Polidoro, 53. "Now there are more ethnic people. It's more mixed. And it's nice, still nice. We like it." The old-timers' shrugs about its low-income status reflect a key caveat to the discussion of the disappearance of the city's middle-class census tracts: to fall from "middle-income" to "low-income," in relative terms, a neighbourhood need not get significantly poorer. Since the city's high-income neighbourhoods are getting richer, a middle-class neighbourhood that maintains its income level will be relatively poorer. The influx of South Asians has not made this one destitute; it remains largely populated, said Polidoro, by people who work as teachers, nurses, and factory and construction workers, among other unpretentious jobs. But the new arrivals contributed to a decline of about $1,000 in the neighbourhood's inflation-adjusted average individual income between 2000 and 2005. Two local real estate agents said about 70 per cent of people now inquiring about houses in the neighbourhood are South Asian. Many recent buyers, said Coldwell Banker agent Raffi Boghossian, are large extended families who have pooled limited incomes, sometimes "not much more than minimum wage," to acquire property. Local businesses have adjusted accordingly. At Reliable Parts, an appliance parts shop beside Primo Pizza, employee Warren Lastewka has a polite "the price is the price" speech he delivers when cash-strapped customers reared in haggling-friendly countries ask for unadvertised discounts. The Paperback Exchange, a bookstore in the plaza since the 1970s, now stocks elementary educational books with titles like Basic Learning Skills and Parts of Speech near its sci-fi novels. "I'll get a family of Pakistanis in when the teacher says to them, `Your kid's not going to make it if they can't read English.' From now through to June, that's when they usually get the notice," said Joy Ritchie, 64, the mother of owner Troy Ritchie. "I keep those books on the wall there. And I do very good business on that from now to June." Low-income areas sometimes lack proximity to social services and other essential conveniences. This one is served by Scarborough General Hospital, a Royal Bank, a Shoppers Drug Mart, a library and a Price Chopper. "Everything is convenient for us in this area," said Kaushik Maisuria, 28, an India-born auto garage employee who lives with his two uncles and two young cousins. "We can get whatever we want." Including, increasingly, products and services targeted to them, like Malik's halal pizza or the plaza's JD's Market and Halal Meat, where large bags of basmati rice line the aisles and a butcher works out back. Once a Becker's Milk, the location was a standard convenience store until October, when Jaffer Derwish's Afghanistan-born family converted it into a small grocery. In a tough economy, business is slow, said Derwish, 23. So is demand for local real estate. "The market is sort of dead in the area," Boghossian said. Many prospective buyers, he said, "are people with income that is not certain." "Typical Scarborough," said Royal LePage Signature realtor Joan Manuel. "You're not getting multiple offers. And if you do, you're not getting them over (the listed price)." Those people still making offers, however, are drawn to the neighbourhood's increasing ability to meet distinct South Asian needs. About 800 metres from Brimley Rd. is the large new Jame Abu Bakr Siddique mosque, a gleaming white facility whose minarets loom over another halal pizzeria. Prospective buyers have cited the mosque as a key lure to the area, said Manuel. And other attractions abound. Down the street is the bustling Bombay Bazaar grocery store in a Lawrence Ave. plaza so busy people park their cars in the middle of the parking lot, preventing those lucky enough to find spots from backing out. Nearby are a Hindi video rental store-slash-hair salon and a fish market. It is, for some, a sight to behold. "Where there used to be an old mom-and-pop operation," said Joy Ritchie, a touch of wonderment in her voice, "now they're selling saris." http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/584203 Poor neighbourhoods growing across Toronto RENÉ JOHNSTON/TORONTO STAR Newspapers in South Asian languages serve the city's many new immigrants. Toronto's middle class is disappearing. Since 2001, 15 of the city's middle-income neighbourhoods have vanished, according to a yet-to-be released University of Toronto report. The majority became low-income areas, where individual earnings are 20 to 40 per cent below the city average. Hardest hit are the suburbs. Declines in Scarborough and north Etobicoke have continued. Falling income is also affecting parts of Brampton, Mississauga and Durham. In 1970, 86 per cent of 905 neighbourhoods were middle class. In 2005, that number had tumbled to 61 per cent. From 2000 to 2005, the number of city neighbourhoods with very low earnings – more than 40 per cent below the Toronto-area average – grew by almost 50 per cent. Residents in these neighbourhoods live on welfare-level earnings, says U of T researcher David Hulchanski. The report, due out this year, is an update of the groundbreaking 2007 The Three Cities within Toronto report by Hulchanski and a team of university researchers. It analyzed and mapped Statistics Canada census data from 1971 to 2001, finding that not only were middle-class neighbourhoods disappearing, but Toronto was divided into three distinct geographic areas: City 1, which consistently gained income; City 2, which maintained its income but shrunk in size; and City 3, whose residents saw their earnings fall over the 30-year period. Hulchanski says municipal governments are not to blame. "The people of Toronto did not do this to themselves. This is a national trend. What we're showing on these maps is the way federal and provincial policies, as well as the economy, have played out in Toronto's neighbourhoods." He says policies such as universal health care and social assistance helped build the middle class. Cutbacks, including downloading of social services from the province to cities and a lack of affordable housing and job protection, are leading to its destruction. "You didn't talk about McJobs in the 1970s, or even part-time jobs without benefits. Whoever heard of a job that wasn't full-time without benefits?" he asks. "That would be shocking 25 years ago. Now it's normal." Hulchanski's updated study, with another five years of data from the 2006 census, confirms the decline of the middle class and the continued polarization of rich and poor neighbourhoods. From 2001 to 2006, individual incomes in wealthy areas grew 14 per cent, while residents of low-income neighbourhoods made only modest gains. During the 1970s, Toronto was a predominantly middle-class city, with 341 of its 520 census tracts – neighbourhood areas determined by Statistics Canada so that they have roughly 4,000 residents each – in the middle-income category. Poverty was contained in the city's urban core. Thirty years later, it's a city divided. Richer residents live along the Yonge St. corridor, close to services and transit. Individual incomes average almost $90,000 a year. The proliferating poorer communities are located in Toronto's pre-amalgamation suburbs, the middle-class bastion of the 1950s. In 2006 that area included 40 per cent of the city's census tracts. Sixty-one per cent are immigrants. There is little rapid transit and an average income of $26,900. Sandwiched between the two areas is a shrinking City 2, neighbourhoods with static income where the average income is about $35,700. Hulchanski began his research in 2005 with a $1 million grant (spread over five years) from the Social Science Humanities Research Council of Canada. He teamed with St. Christopher House, an omnibus social service agency in the city's west end, to examine how gentrification was changing the neighbourhood. The data was difficult to analyze. Within the 30-year period, census boundaries had changed and some of the information wasn't available electronically. A U of T data analyst took more than a year to get it into shape. By the time Hulchanski began his work, Toronto and the United Way had completed research showing the city's poverty was highest in 13 priority neighbourhoods. "The trend line was clearly there. Researchers saw it and the city's work with the United Way was going on," says Fiona Chapman, manager of social research and analysis for Toronto. "What David's work has done is absolutely confirmed the concerns. And I think why everybody doffs their cap to David is (that) he's been very good at helping the public understand these concerns." BY THE NUMBERS How the income decline affects the outer suburbs $40,074 Average 2005 individual income, all Toronto census districts 61 Percentage of population comprising immigrants in districts where incomes have declined more than 20 per cent since 1970 34 Percentage of population comprising whites in such districts 19 Number of subway stations within 300 metres of such districts, versus 40 for biggest-gaining districts 54 Percentage of 2005-07 homicides in such districts, versus 12 per cent for biggest-gaining districts Source: University of Toronto Cities Centre U of T analysis of census data shows middle class shrinking, especially in Scarborough, Etobicoke February 08, 2009 Patty Winsa STAFF REPORTER http://www.thestar.com/Article/584204 interactive map: http://www3.thestar.com/static/Flash/map_middleclass.html PDF:http://multimedia.thestar.com/acrobat/51/c7/2cc835a5403d8d76478fae97bba0.pdf
  3. CGI laying off 100 in Montreal François Shalom , Montreal Gazette Published: 52 minutes ago Montreal technology company CGI Group Inc. laid off about 100 people at its Montreal and Toronto offices today, The Gazette has learned. The information-technology services firm told the affected employees in a letter that their department, technology and infrastructure management, "needs to undergo a transformation and re-alignment to adapt to market conditions. As a result, we are reducing the size of our workforce." Company spokesperson Lorne Gorber confirmed that about 65 people lost their jobs in Montreal and another 35 in Toronto. As an outsourcer, we're in constant restructuring mode," said Gorber. "We need to deliver constant improvements in performance of technologies and processes." Gorber said that CGI is making "every best effort to find new opportunities for them" elsewhere within the company. About one-third of those laid off are managers. One employee affected, 34-year-old IT consultant Marc Lallier, said he was called down to a conference room, handed the company letter and given an option to move. He has one week to respond, but couldn't say whether he would keep his $63,000-a-year salary in the new post offered to him. Gorber stressed that CGI is not retrenching. "We've just added 50 jobs in Quebec City recently and some positions in Sherbrooke as well, where we want to ramp up to 150 posts." He said the cost-cutting move is "not a knee-jerk reaction" to losing a contract but a more rational and thought-out division of labour. The last time the company announced important layoffs was in March 2006, when CGI slashed 1,000 jobs due to cutbacks at an important client, BCE. But the company has since rehired about twice as many as that, Gorber said, for a current workforce of about 27,000 people worldwide. About 16,000 are in Canada, of which 9,000 are in Quebec, 6,000 of them in Montreal. http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/business/story.html?id=735856ab-0983-4177-bd62-2c7fc6bb00c9
  4. Trump Files Suit Against Lenders Developer Seeks to Extend $640 Million Loan on a Chicago Skyscraper Wsj.com By ALEX FRANGOS Tall Trouble: Donald Trump's Chicago skyscraper project, the Trump International Hotel & Tower, during construction in July. Mr. Trump is suing to extend a $640 million senior construction loan on the 92-story Trump International Hotel & Tower from a group of lenders led by Deutsche Bank AG and including a unit of Merrill Lynch & Co., Union Labor Life Insurance Co., iStar Financial Inc., a publicly traded real-estate investment trust, and Highland Funds, a unit of Highland Capital Management LP. The tower, which contains 339 hotel rooms and 486 condominiums, will be the second-tallest building in the U.S. behind Chicago's Sears Tower and is expected to be completed in mid-2009. The hotel, on the lower floors, opened earlier this year. But sales of both the hotel rooms and the condominiums have come in below original estimates and the project's current projected revenue remains short by nearly $100 million needed to pay off the senior lenders. The lawsuit, filed in New York State supreme court in Queens, is a further indication of the dysfunction in the real-estate lending markets as borrowers and lenders struggle to resolve troubled projects. People familiar with the matter say the lender group, which is made up of more than a dozen institutions, was unable to agree on the extension. The suit demands -- among other things -- that an extension provision in the original loan agreement be triggered because of the "unprecedented financial crisis in the credit markets now prevailing, in part due to acts Deutsche Bank itself participated in." This so-called force majeure provision is common in contracts and can be applied to acts of war and natural disasters. Mr. Trump already extended the loan once in May. From the Archives Mr. Trump asked for $3 billion in damages. The suit won't affect construction of the project, according to people familiar who say there is enough money to complete the $90 million work that is left. The suit says Mr. Trump attempted to resolve the impasse by offering to buy the project's unsold hotel units for $97 million. That money would be used to pay down the construction loan, along with the $204 million in proceeds from closed units and the $353 million that is expected from units that close in the next six months. A Deutsche Bank spokesman declined to comment. Mr. Trump has put $77 million of his own equity into the tower, which he would stand to lose in a potential foreclosure. Other than a $40 million guarantee to complete the project, Mr. Trump has no recourse obligations to the project. A Trump spokesman declined to comment. [Trump, Donald] Deutsche Bank originated the construction loan in 2005 and sold off most of it to others, retaining less than $10 million of exposure on that loan. The suit alleges that Deutsche Bank compromised the senior construction loan by selling pieces off to "so many institutions, banks, junk bond firms, and virtually anybody that seemed to come along," that the lending group is unable to come to a consensus on how to deal with the matter. It also alleges Deutsche Bank created a "serious conflict of interest" by taking a separate stake in the project's so-called mezzanine loan that was originated by private-equity firm Fortress Investment Group. The mezzanine loan, which is junior to the senior construction loan, had an original principal of $130 million but will eventually accrue to $360 million. Deutsche Bank purchased roughly one-quarter of the mezzanine loan, according to people familiar with the matter. The suit names the mezzanine lenders as defendants, including Fortress and its affiliates, Newcastle Investment Corp. and Drawbridge Special Opportunities Fund, as well as Dune Capital Management and Blackacre Institutional Capital Management, the real-estate arm of Cerberus Capital Management. Fortress didn't respond to a request for comment. The other lenders declined to comment. Unless sales of the condo and hotel units restart despite the worst housing market in generations, and quickly generate $400 million in new sales, it will be difficult for the project to pay off the mezzanine loan, which comes due in May 2009.
  5. The New York Times July 15, 2008 Country, the City Version: By BINA VENKATARAMAN What if “eating local” in Shanghai or New York meant getting your fresh produce from five blocks away? And what if skyscrapers grew off the grid, as verdant, self-sustaining towers where city slickers cultivated their own food? Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University, hopes to make these zucchini-in-the-sky visions a reality. Dr. Despommier’s pet project is the “vertical farm,” a concept he created in 1999 with graduate students in his class on medical ecology, the study of how the environment and human health interact. The idea, which has captured the imagination of several architects in the United States and Europe in the past several years, just caught the eye of another big city dreamer: Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president. When Mr. Stringer heard about the concept in June, he said he immediately pictured a “food farm” addition to the New York City skyline. “Obviously we don’t have vast amounts of vacant land,” he said in a phone interview. “But the sky is the limit in Manhattan.” Mr. Stringer’s office is “sketching out what it would take to pilot a vertical farm,” and plans to pitch a feasibility study to the mayor’s office within the next couple of months, he said. “I think we can really do this,” he added. “We could get the funding.” Dr. Despommier estimates that it would cost $20 million to $30 million to make a prototype of a vertical farm, but hundreds of millions to build one of the 30-story towers that he suggests could feed 50,000 people. “I’m viewed as kind of an outlier because it’s kind of a crazy idea,” Dr. Despommier, 68, said with a chuckle. “You’d think these are mythological creatures.” Dr. Despommier, whose name in French means “of the apple trees,” has been spreading the seeds of his radical idea in lectures and through his Web site. He says his ideas are supported by hydroponic vegetable research done by NASA and are made more feasible by the potential to use sun, wind and wastewater as energy sources. Several observers have said Dr. Despommier’s sky-high dreams need to be brought down to earth. “Why does it have to be 30 stories?” said Jerry Kaufman, professor emeritus of urban and regional planning at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Why can’t it be six stories? There’s some exciting potential in the concept, but I think he overstates what can be done.” Armando Carbonell, chairman of the department of planning and urban form at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Mass., called the idea “very provocative.” But it requires a rigorous economic analysis, he added. “Would a tomato in lower Manhattan be able to outbid an investment banker for space in a high-rise? My bet is that the investment banker will pay more.” Mr. Carbonell questions if a vertical farm could deliver the energy savings its supporters promise. “There’s embodied energy in the concrete and steel and in construction,” he said, adding that the price of land in the city would still outweigh any savings from not having to transport food from afar. “I believe that this general relationship is going to hold, even as transportation costs go up and carbon costs get incorporated into the economic system.” Some criticism is quite helpful. Stephen Colbert jokingly asserted that vertical farming was elitist when Dr. Despommier appeared in June on “The Colbert Report,” a visit that led to a jump in hits to the project’s Web site from an average of 400 daily to 400,000 the day after the show. Dr. Despommier agrees that more research is needed, and calls the energy calculations his students made for the farms, which would rely solely on alternative energy, “a little bit too optimistic.” He added, “I’m a biologist swimming in very deep water right now.” “If I were to set myself as a certifier of vertical farms, I would begin with security,” he said. “How do you keep insects and bacteria from invading your crops?” He says growing food in climate-controlled skyscrapers would also protect against hail and other weather-related hazards, ensuring a higher quality food supply for a city, without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Architects’ renderings of vertical farms — hybrids of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Biosphere 2 with SimCity appeal — seem to be stirring interest. “It also has to be stunning in terms of the architecture, because it needs to work in terms of social marketing,” Dr. Despommier said. “You want people to say, ‘I want that in my backyard.’ ” Augustin Rosenstiehl, a French architect who worked with Dr. Despommier to design a template “living tower,” said he thought that any vertical farm proposal needed to be adapted to a specific place. Mr. Rosenstiehl, principal architect for Atelier SOA in Paris, said: “We cannot do a project without knowing where and why and what we are going to cultivate. For example, in Paris, if you grow some wheat, it’s stupid because we have big fields all around the city and lots of wheat and it’s good wheat. There’s no reason to build towers that are very expensive.” Despite its potential problems, the idea of bringing food closer to the city is gaining traction among pragmatists and dreamers alike. A smaller-scale design of a vertical farm for downtown Seattle won a regional green building contest in 2007 and has piqued the interest of officials in Portland, Ore. The building, a Center for Urban Agriculture designed by architects at Mithun, would supply about a third of the food needed for the 400 people who would live there. In June at P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center in Queens, a husband-wife architect team built a solar-powered outdoor farm out of stacked rows of cardboard tube planters — one that would not meet Dr. Despommier’s security requirements — with chicken coops for egg collection and an array of fruits and vegetables. For Dr. Despommier, the high-rise version is on the horizon. “It’s very idealistic and ivory tower and all of that,” he said. “But there’s a real desire to make this happen.” ---------------- Peut-être pour Dubai en premier? Et le silo no.5, un de ses jours?
  6. I've been wondering for a bit, how it works for people who win the lotto. Lets say you win like $20 million. Do you get taxed once if you made that in one year, or will they tax you every year?
  7. Ahead: A brighter horizon for Cabot Square Plans due; Downtown area in search of an identity Source: The Gazette Cty councillor Karim Boulos is standing in the Canadian Centre for Architecture, airing his optimism over a scale model of what is known as "the Cabot Square area" - a part of the Peter McGill district he represents. But the Cabot Square area is also a stretch of Ste. Catherine St. that makes many Montrealers wince. The thoroughfare between Lambert Closse and Chomedey Sts. has been this city's version of a picture of Dorian Gray, a pastiche of boarded-up storefronts, crumbling facades and grafitti that seems to have spread while other neighbourhoods renewed themselves. However, by this time next Monday, Boulos and the rest of the city will get a bigger glimpse of what might happen to the piece of downtown that's been in search of an identity for nearly a generation. That's when three teams of architects and urban planners will submit their versions of what should be done to revive the Cabot Square area. Boulos, Ville Marie borough mayor Benoit Labonté and members of an alliance of neighbourhood businesses and residents met the press yesterday to detail the attempts to revitalize the neighbourhood. The planning teams were formed after a collection of 25 business, property owners and residents' associations started the Table de concertation du centre-ville ouest. "The properties may be empty but the owners are still paying taxes," Boulos said. "They haven't left, they're waiting to see what's going to happen." The plans submitted by the teams will be judged by a jury that includes architect and Harvard professor Joan Busquest, Dinu Bumbaru of Heritage Montreal and founding director Phyllis Lambert of the Canadian Centre for Architecture. The successful submission will form the basis for an urban plan that will produced by the borough and submitted to public consultations. Boulos suggests that if everything goes well, changes in the district might begin "by this fall." And for Lambert, whose architectural centre sprawls across the neighbourhood's southern edge, change is what's needed for a district that spent decades losing more than it's gained. "Over the last years, this area has deteriorated miserably," she said. "There used to be the Forum and all those stores where the Faubourg (Ste. Catherine) is. ... But it just goes down the drain further and further. "Then there's the block ... just to the east of the Forum with the (Seville) theatre on it, which has been boarded up for years. "And this just destroys the whole area. People have no respect (for the neighbourhood), and why would you? People just walk down the street and it's so miserable." Lambert's nephew, Stephen Bronfman, is chairman of Claridge Inc., an investment company that owns the Seville Theatre block. Asked in October about the condition of the block, Lambert told The Gazette: "It is coming along. Slowly, but we are working closely with the city and other landlords in the area. It takes time to do properly." Labonté says a development project for the Seville block is under study by the borough's urban committee. Boulos has said in earlier interviews that a private investor plans to turn the block into student residences. "What I can tell you about this project," Labonté said, "is that that there will be lots of room for students - especially for Concordia University - and the design of the building will be quite impressive. ... I'm pretty confident this project at the Seville Theatre will start the renewal of this leg of Ste. Catherine St." A decision by the borough on which development plan will be used is expected in May. But final approval will rest with the city's executive committee. In the meantime, Montrealers and the people who own the storefronts that make them wince wait to see what's going to happen.
  8. jesseps

    Rogers Vision

    Anyone try it out? Rant: I just wish we could sort of get a decent rate for surfing the net with our phone. One thing I noticed that the Vision (3G) is on the same network at the wireless internet (pc cards) or so I think. 1GB for $65. Something similar for consumers and not business oriented people, probably cost over $500. Plus 1GB surfing on the phone seems reasonable, it is like 30 MB a day for about $2.
  9. Montreal's Jews aren't going anywhere By Yoni Goldstein The history of Russian Jews in Montreal, Canada, began more than a century ago, when a coalition of Jews and Christians in the city raised funds to help Jews escape from the Russian empire in the wake of an onslaught of pogroms triggered by the assassination of czar Alexander II, in March 1881. There are widely varying estimates on the current size of the Russian Jewish community in Montreal: The local Jewish federation believes there are fewer than 10,000 Russian-speaking Jews in the city, while Russian community officials claim the actual number is more than double that figure. In either case, a community center and a Russian-language biweekly newspaper attest to the fact that Russian Jews have established a vibrant community in the city (whose total Jewish population is about 100,000). Of course, as in virtually every city outside Israel where there is a Jewish presence, life for the Jews of Montreal is not without challenges. The city has been home to some minor-league anti-Semitism in the past, and the province of Quebec is proving to be mildly hostile to anyone who can't speak in French and isn't willing to learn how. But the biggest threat to Montreal Jews, the Quebec sovereignty movement of the 1970s and then later, in the early-1990s, has more recently lost favor in the eyes of more Quebecois than ever before. Now is a good time to be a Jew in Montreal. Apparently, Nativ, the formerly clandestine organization that since the 1950s has shared responsibility for bringing Jews from what is now the Former Soviet Union to Israel, and Israel's minister of strategic affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, don't agree. According to recent stories in Haaretz and the European Jewish Press service, having apparently run out of Jews still living in the FSU to bring to Israel, Nativ is planning to make a new push in North America to recruit Russian Jews there to make aliyah. Target No. 1: Montreal. It's a peculiar strategy: aiming to do business in a country that has two significant, settled communities of Russian Jews (the other being Toronto, where some 90,000 live); a country that is safe for Jews and where Jewish communities have long prospered; and a country, moreover, to which disadvantaged immigrants flock and where they are welcomed in droves, where they can experience multiculturalism and inclusiveness. When you're trying to convince people to leave peaceful, thriving Canada for a better life in the Middle East, you know you're in trouble of some kind. The only ones that look bad in this story are Nativ and Lieberman. The decision to recruit in Montreal is, at best, misguided. Worse, it demonstrates that the brand of covert immigration missions that were Nativ's bread and butter between the 1950s and 1990s is no longer needed. For 30 years, the organization was solely responsible for assisting countless Jewish escapees from the Soviet scourge, but that very important work is now finished. Jews who, under the hammer and sickle, were unable either to express themselves Jewishly, or to leave for someplace else where they would be free to do just that, are now at liberty to choose where they want to live, including Israel. In fact, Nativ's decision to choose Montreal's as its first stop in North America proves just how out of touch the organization is. (Already in Germany, Nativ has provoked a protest from Jewish communal leaders because of similar efforts there to lobby Russian-immigrant Jews to depart for Israel.) According to estimates from the city's Jewish federation, 80-85 percent of Russian Jews living in Montreal actually moved there from Israel. These people have already been the beneficiaries of Nativ once, and yet, at some later point, they decided that Israel wasn't the right place for them after all. There's no reason to think that they would consider moving back now, no matter how hard aliyah-liaison officers try to convince them. Nativ's venture into Montreal is doomed to fail because the organization's brand of cloak-and-dagger aliyah recruitment simply isn't suited to today's Jewish global village. Its employment of old-style Zionist tactics, which depict the State of Israel as representing the final stronghold against a world of Jew-haters doesn't connect with people anymore. There are, after all, other perfectly suitable homes for Jews. Montreal is one of those places. Perhaps the time has come for Israel in general to reevaluate its relationship with Diaspora Jewry and acknowledge that there are other places in the world perfectly suited to Jewish living. Once it takes that first step, the next job would be to recognize that the overall relationship between Israel and the Diaspora must change. Instead of looking at the Diaspora as a temporary home for those Jews who can't or aren't ready yet to make aliyah, Israel should invest in forming bonds with Jewish communities around the globe. Nativ, which has been reorganized and reportedly has a fat new budget, might even consider investing some of its cash in making those communities healthier, much in the same way those communities have long invested in the welfare of Israel. Montreal's Russian Jews aren't going anywhere and neither are the vast majority of Jews - Russian-speaking or otherwise - in North and South America and Europe. The sooner the Israeli government realizes that fact, the sooner it can begin to forge a new, symbiotic relationship with all the Jews outside Israel who are quite content to stay right where they are. Yoni Goldstein is an editorial writer at Canada's National Post, and a columnist at the Canadian Jewish News.
  10. Montreal hotels offer escape from tourists Graeme Hamilton, National Post MONTREAL - At street level, there is an old-world charm to parts of this city, where horse-drawn caleches roll over cobblestone streets, passing buildings dating from the French regime. But then again, the smell of horse urine can get a little pungent on a steaming-hot day, the cobblestones can do a number on your ankle if you're not careful, and for every building of historic interest there's another housing a tacky souvenir shop. Montreal's year-round inhabitants have discovered a new escape route from the tourist-clogged streets, which oddly enough begins in a hotel lobby. A number of city hotels have sprouted rooftop terrasses where the (admittedly steep) price of a beer is also said to buy you a smashing view, a chance to mix with the in crowd and in one case, a dip in the pool if the spirit moves you. The trend has been fuelled by a proliferation of boutique hotels in Old Montreal, which have helped revive a neighbourhood that had been sliding. The best of a bunch sampled recently was atop the Hotel Nelligan, just up from the waterfront on St. Paul Street West. In one direction, the view was of the St. Lawrence River, Ile Notre-Dame and Moshe Safdie's Habitat '67 apartment complex, gleaming as it caught the early-evening sun; in the other, Notre-Dame basilica loomed. Dormer windows on adjacent buildings looked very Parisian, although the music -- an eclectic mix of oldies ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Smokey Robinson -- screamed 1970s rec room. The terrasse, called Sky, does not exactly qualify as a best-kept secret. The rooftop was packed, and the area reserved for dining had an hour-long wait for a table. An even larger crowd awaited atop the Hotel Place d'Armes on the Aix terrasse. After wandering past hotel rooms to find the door leading to the roof, we were greeted by a bouncer recording each arrival and departure with a handheld counter. Asked how many people there were, he replied that the information was "confidential." A waiter said we had arrived on the patio's busiest night of the week, a Thursday. It was largely an after-work crowd looking to start the weekend early; a hotel guest looking for a relaxing cocktail in the sun would have been surprised to find a scene fit for Crescent Street, the city's famous nightclub strip. "It's happy hour," the waiter advised us, which seemed hard to believe after having just paid $7.50 for a bottle of beer. He clarified that the prices are unchanged during this particular bar's happy hour. It's just that people are happy. The view was not the best, hurt by the fact Montreal planners over the years have allowed an architectural jewel such as the basilica to be dwarfed by modern monstrosities such as the National Bank tower on Place d'Armes and the courthouse a block to the east. For a view, the hands-down winner was Hotel de la Montagne, in the city's downtown -- and not just because its rooftop pool is surrounded by bikini-clad sunbathers. On a recent evening, looking southeast we could see clear to the Eastern Townships. In the foreground was Montreal's skyline and behind us Mount Royal. The hotel has no pretense of "boutique" trendiness, from the ebony elephants and crocodile statues in the lobby to the party atmosphere on the rooftop. "People say that it is dated, so what, so is your girlfriend," a young Ohio man who recently stayed at the hotel wrote on tripadvisor.com last month. "The pool on the roof is as cool as it gets. We arrived on Friday afternoon, and the roof looked like a scene from spring break in Cancun." Our waitress advised us that the small pool is open to all customers whether they are staying at the hotel or not, "as long as you have alcohol." Not too much, she hastened to add, relating the story of a drunken man who had a contest with friends to see who could stay underwater the longest. He never came up, she said.
  11. New York City fears return to 1970s Tue Jan 27, 2009 By Joan Gralla http://www.reuters.com/article/newsO...50Q6IH20090127
  12. Hope that this isn't classified as politics. http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/story.html?id=0117e486-7567-4fea-babf-5c8030e44534<!-- WPGCCWEB26 16 -->
  13. U.S. firm plans private hospital in Griffintown Jason Magder Montreal Gazette Wednesday, February 06, 2008 An American company that specializes in medical tourism is planning to set up a private hospital at the southeast end of Griffintown. The company is hoping to occupy at least 24 stories of office space as part of a construction project planned for the area bordered by the Peel Basin and the Bonaventure Expressway. Roland Hakim, one of the developers, wouldn't reveal the name of the medical tourism company, but said the health complex would serve mostly people travelling to undergo medical procedures, such as knee and hip replacements, but could also serve people from this country. The hospital would have the same comforts as a four-star or five-star hotel, Hakim said. He added medical tourism is becoming very popular. People travel to undergo medical procedures, either because it's usually less expensive than doing it in their own countries, or they want to schedule a vacation around their recovery period. It would be part of a 2.8 hectare project that includes an intermodal station, for a planned tramway into Griffintown, as well as a train that is planned to link Montreal with the South Shore. The project also calls for a heli-port at the top of one of the towers where several helicopters can land. There would be a movie theater, shops, restaurants, conference rooms, office towers and a hotel. "It would be the first thing people see when they come to Montreal and we want it to be something nice," Hakim said. He said the first phase of the project, which includes the hospital, could be built in three years. However, Pierre Varadi, Hakim's partner in this project, and the president of Canvar, said nothing can be built before the Bonaventure Expressway is torn down and rebuilt at street level, a project still in the planning phase. "They say they will do it within four years, but I don't know if they will do it that quickly," he said. The development is one of many being planned for the area. Canada Lands is expected to present a proposal later this year to redevelop the defunct Canada Post sorting station. The massive project would cover about 11 hectares of land and would be built just east of the 10.2 hectare project proposed in November by the company Devimco. Hakim said development of Griffintown is inevitable. "The downtown core has to expand and the only place it can expand is further south," he said. "This will become the new downtown core."
  14. http://www.icisource.ca/commercial_real_estate_news/ When NIMBYism is warranted, and when it isn’t Of course, the question is whether a proposed development, infill project or new infrastructure build really does pose a risk to these cherished things. Developers and urban planners must always be cognizant of the fact that there is a segment of the population, a fringe element, who will object to just about anything “new” as a matter of principle. I’ve been to many open houses and public consultations for one proposed project or another over the years. There is almost always that contingent of dogged objectors who invariably fixate on the same things: Parking – Will there be enough if the development increases the population density of the neighbourhood or draws more shoppers/workers from elsewhere? Traffic – Will streets become unsafe and congested due to more cars on the road? Transit – Will this mean more busses on the road, increasing the safety hazard on residential streets, or conversely will there be a need for more? Shadowing – is the new build going to leave parts of the neighbourhood stuck in the shade of a skyscraper? These are all legitimate concerns, depending on the nature of the project in question. They are also easy targets for the activist obstructionist. Full and honest disclosure is the best defence Why? Because I see, time and again, some developers and urban planners who should know better fail to be prepared for objections rooted on any of these points. With any new development or infrastructure project, there has to be, as a simple matter of sound public policy, studies that examine and seek to mitigate impacts and effects related to parking, traffic, shadowing, transit and other considerations. It therefore only makes sense, during a public consult or open house, to address the most likely opposition head on by presenting the findings and recommendations of these studies up front in a clear and obvious manner. But too often, this isn’t done. I’ve was at an open house a few years ago where, when asked about traffic impact, the developer said there wouldn’t be any. Excuse me? If your project adds even one car to the street, there’s an impact. I expect he meant there would be only minimal impact, but that’s not what he said. The obstructionists had a field day with that – another greedy developer, trying to pull the wool over the eyes of honest residents. This is a marketing exercise – treat it like one This is ultimately a marketing exercise – you have to sell residents on the value and need of the development. Take another example – a retirement residence. With an aging population, we are obviously going to need more assisted living facilities in the years to come. But in this case, the developer, speaking to an audience full of grey hairs, didn’t even make the point that the new residence would give people a quality assisted-living option, without having to leave their community, when they were no longer able to live on their own. I also hear people who object to infill projects because they think their tax dollars have paid for infrastructure that a developer is now going to take advantage of – they think the developer is somehow getting a free ride. And yet, that developer must pay development charges to the city to proceed with construction. The new build will also pay its full utility costs and property taxes like the rest of the street. City hall gets more revenue for infrastructure that has already been paid for, and these additional development charges fund municipal projects throughout the city. Another point, often overlooked – when you take an underperforming property and redevelop it, its assessed value goes up, and its tax bill goes up. The local assessment base has just grown. City hall isn’t in the business of making a profit, just collecting enough property tax to cover the bills. The more properties there are in your neighbourhood, the further that tax burden is spread. In other words, that infill project will give everyone else a marginal reduction on their tax bill. It likely isn’t much, but still, it’s something. Developers must use the facts to defuse criticism Bottom line, development is necessary and good most of the time. If we didn’t have good regulated development, we would be living in horrid medieval conditions. Over the last century and a bit, ever growing regulation have given us safer communities, with more reliable utilities and key services such as policing and fire. Yes, there are examples of bad development, but if we had none, as some people seem to want, no one would have a decent place to live. It just astonishes me that developers and urban planners don’t make better use of the facts available to them to defuse criticism. It’s so easy to do it in the right way. Proper preparation for new development public information sessions is the proponent’s one opportunity to tell their story, and should not be wasted by failing to get the facts out and explaining why a project is a good idea. To discuss this or any other valuation topic in the context of your property, please contact me at [email protected] I am also interested in your feedback and suggestions for future articles. The post Why do public planning projects go off the rails? appeared first on Real Estate News Exchange (RENX). sent via Tapatalk
  15. Very interesting video of a rapidly expanding transport that few people are aware of. Lac-Mégantic was a wake-up call:
  16. Hello everyone, I have a vision to develop Montreal that would revolutionize the face of downtown and give an international touch to it. What I would like to do is to form a small group to develop a few schematics/drawings of my idea and present it to the city developers and some business people. Anybody that has the skills necessary on this forum willing to put some time in it? Let me know
  17. https://austinonyourfeet.wordpress.com/2015/11/23/9-things-people-always-say-at-zoning-hearings-illustrated-by-cats/?utm_content=bufferc065f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer AUSTIN ON YOUR FEET 9 THINGS PEOPLE ALWAYS SAY AT ZONING HEARINGS, ILLUSTRATED BY CATS November 23, 2015Dan Keshet If you watch enough zoning hearings, the testimony begins to sound pretty repetitive. That novel argument you’re making? The Council members have heard it a million times before. Here are 9 of the things we hear most often at zoning hearings, illustrated by cats. 1. I’M NOT OPPOSED TO ALL DEVELOPMENT. JUST THIS DEVELOPMENT. Those 1,000 times you sat on your couch to support developments far away from you surely counterbalance that one time you came out to oppose your neighbor’s development. If you’re opposed, just tell us why; don’t go on about how you’re not a person that opposes things. 2. NOBODY TALKED TO ME! The city notifies neighbors and registered civic organizations about upcoming permits. Developers seek out people they think might be affected. But it’s hard to know who is going to care and notifications are often thrown out. Don’t feel left out! If you’re at the hearing, you’re being heard. Just say what’s on your mind. 3. REALITY IS, EVERYBODY DRIVES A CAR. Usually said while proposing somebody build more parking. If you want that reality to ever change, you have to accept building less car infrastructure. 4. THESE GREEDY DEVELOPERS ONLY THINK ABOUT PROFITS Land development is a business. Like all businesses, sometimes you make money and sometimes you lose money. You just try to make sure that you make enough money on the winners to cancel out the losers. Focusing in on the fact that the developer is hoping to make money makes your testimony sound more like you oppose out of spite than a particular reason. 5. LET ME TELL YOU MY THEORY OF ECONOMICS If council members haven’t learned economics by now, they’re not going to learn it from your three minute testimony. 6.WHAT THIS NEIGHBORHOOD REALLY NEEDS IS A COFFEE SHOP, NOT MORE APARTMENTS For all the mean things people sometimes say about developers, a lot of folks seem to fashion themselves amateur land developers, with a keen eye on exactly what types of businesses will succeed or fail. As it turns out, those things coincide perfectly with the things they personally enjoy. 7. I’M 5TH GENERATION! MY GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER MOVED HERE BEFORE THIS WAS EVEN ON THE MAP! That entitles you to one vote, just like everybody else. Now tell us what you came up here to say. 8. WE NEED TO RESPECT THE HUNDREDS OF HOURS SPENT CRAFTING THIS NEIGHBORHOOD PLAN Respecting people for volunteering time making plans doesn’t mean those plans should never change. Now tell us your reasons for or against this particular change. 9. THIS HOUSING IS TOO SMALL FOR ME! Different people have different needs and desires! Just because you don’t like a particular thing doesn’t mean nobody would like it. sent via Tapatalk
  18. Article intéressant dans le NYMAG : The Psychological Cost of Boring Buildings By Jacoba Urist April 12, 2016 10:56 a.m. <cite class="credit">Photo: Philip Laurell/Getty Images </cite>New Yorkers have long bemoaned their city being overrun by bland office towers and chain stores: Soon, it seems, every corner will either be a bank, a Walgreens, or a Starbucks. And there is indeed evidence that all cities are starting to look the same, which can hurt local growth and wages. But there could be more than an economic or nostalgic price to impersonal retail and high-rise construction: Boring architecture may take an emotional toll on the people forced to live in and around it. A growing body of research in cognitive science illuminates the physical and mental toll bland cityscapes exact on residents. Generally, these researchers argue that humans are healthier when they live among variety — a cacophony of bars, bodegas, and independent shops — or work in well-designed, unique spaces, rather than unattractive, generic ones. In their book, Cognitive Architecture: Designing for How We Respond to the Built Environment, Tufts urban policy professor Justin Hollander and architect Ann Sussman review scientific data to help architects and urban planners understand how, exactly, we respond to our built surroundings. People, they argue, function best in intricate settings and crave variety, not “big, blank, boxy buildings.” Indeed, that’s what Colin Ellard, a neuroscientist at the University of Waterloo and director of its Urban Realities Laboratory, has found in his own work. Five years ago, Ellard became interested in a particular building on East Houston Street — the gigantic Whole Foods “plopped into” a notoriously textured part of lower Manhattan. As described in his book, titled Places of the Heart: The Psychogeography of Everyday Life, Ellard partnered with the Guggenheim Museum’s urban think tank to analyze what happens when someone “turns out of a tiny, historic [knish] restaurant” and encounters a full city block with nothing but “the long, blank façade of the Whole Foods Market.” The Whole Foods on Houston. In 2011, Ellard led small groups on carefully planned Lower East Side walks to measure the effect of the urban environment on their bodies and minds. Participants recorded their response to questions at each stopping point and wore sensors that measured skin conductance, an electrodermal response to emotional excitement. Passing the monolithic Whole Foods, people’s state of arousal reached a nadir in Ellard’s project. Physiologically, he explained, they were bored. In their descriptions of this particular place, they used words like bland, monotonous, and passionless. In contrast, one block east of the Whole Foods on East Houston, at the other test site — a “lively sea of restaurants with lots of open doors and windows” — people’s bracelets measured high levels of physical excitement, and they listed words like lively, busy, and socializing. “The holy grail in urban design is to produce some kind of novelty or change every few seconds,” Ellard said. “Otherwise, we become cognitively disengaged.” The Whole Foods may have gentrified the neighborhood with more high-quality organic groceries, but the building itself stifled people. Its architecture blah-ness made their minds and bodies go meh. And studies show that feeling meh can be more than a passing nuisance. For instance, psychologists Colleen Merrifield and James Danckert’s work suggests that even small doses of boredom can generate stress. People in their experiment watched three videos — one boring, one sad, and one interesting – while wearing electrodes to measure their physiological responses. Boredom, surprisingly, increased people’s heart rate and cortisol level more than sadness. Now take their findings and imagine the cumulative effects of living or working in the same oppressively dull environs day after day, said Ellard. There might even be a potential link between mind-numbing places and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. In one case, physicians have linked “environmental deprivation” to ADHD in children. Homes without toys, art, or other stimuli were a significant predictor of ADHD symptoms.Meanwhile, the prevalence of U.S. adults treated for attention deficit is rising. And while people may generally be hardwired for variety, Dr. Richard Friedman, director of the pharmacology clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, makes the case that those with ADHD are especially novelty-seeking. Friedman points to a patient who “treated” his ADHD by changing his workday from one that was highly routine — a standard desk job — to a start-up, which has him “on the road, constantly changing environments.” Most ADD is the result of biological factors, said Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD, and co-authored numerous books on the subject, such as Delivered From Distraction: Getting the Most Out of Life With Attention Deficit Disorder. But, he explained, he sees a lot of socially induced ADD, too, a form of the disorder that makes it appear as though you inherited the genes, although you really haven’t. And one way you might have the socially induced condition, according to Hallowell, is to suffer severe boredom or live in a highly nonstimulating environment. “It makes total sense that for these people changing where they work or live to add more visual stimulation and daily variety could be extremely helpful,” Hallowell said. At the same time, many adults may feel they have ADHD because the world has become hypersaturated with constant texts, emails, and input. For them, life has become too adrenalizing. “They don’t have true ADHD,” Hallowell said, “but, rather, what I call a severe case of modern life.” So the trick, it seems, is to design a world that excites but doesn’t overly assault our faculties with a constant barrage of information: Scientists aren’t proposing that all cities look like the Vegas strip or Times Square. “We are, as animals, programmed to respond to thrill,” said professor Brendan Walker, a former aerospace engineer and author of Taxonomy of Thrill and Thrilling Designs. In Walker’s University of Nottingham “thrill laboratory,” devices gauge heart rate and skin conductance to see how people respond to adrenaline-producing experiences such as a roller-coaster ride. And he’s reduced “thrill” to a set of multivariable equations that illustrate the importance of rapid variation in our lives: A thrilling encounter moves us quickly from a state of equilibrium to a kind of desirable “disorientation,” like the moment before you rush down the hill of a roller coaster. “Humans want a certain element of turmoil or confusion,” he said. “Complexity is thrilling whether in an amusement park or architecture.” Environmental thrill and visual variety, Walker believes, help people’s psyche. As many of us instinctively feel a wave of ennui at the thought of working all day in a maze of soulless, white cubicles, blocks of generic buildings stub our senses. It’s not only that we’re genetic adrenaline junkies. Psychologists have found that jaw-dropping or awe-inspiring moments — picture the exhilarating view of the Grand Canyon or Paris from the Eiffel tower — can potentially improve our 21st-century well-being. One study showed that the feeling of awe can make people more patient, less materialistic, and more willing to help others. In an experiment, researchers showed students 60-second clips of waterfalls, whales, or astronauts in space. After only a minute of virtual images, those who said they were awed also felt less pressed for time. In a second experiment, individuals recalled “an awe-inspiring” event and then answered a range of survey questions; they were also more likely to say they’d volunteer for a charity, as compared to those who hadn’t spent time thinking about a past moment of awe. And in yet another variation, people made hypothetical choices between material and experiential goods of equal monetary value: a watchor a Broadway show, a jacket or a restaurant meal. Those who recently “felt awe” were more likely to choose an experience over a physical possession, a choice that is linked with greater satisfaction in the long run. In other words, a visual buzz — whether architectural or natural — might have the ability to change our frame of mind, making modern-day life more satisfying and interactive. It’s important to note, however, that architectural boredom isn’t about how pristine a street is. People often confuse successful architecture with whether an area looks pleasant. On the contrary, when it comes to city buildings, people often focus too narrowly on aesthetics, said Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City: Transforming Our Through Urban Design. But good design is really is about “shaping emotional infrastructure.” Some of the happiest blocks in New York City, he argues, are “kind of ugly and messy.” For instance, Ellard’s “happier” East Houston block is a “jumbled-up, social one”— the Whole Foods stretch, in comparison, is newer and more manicured. Sometimes what’s best for us, Montgomery explained, just isn’t that pretty. His research also shows cacophonous blocks may make people kinder to each other. In 2014, Montgomery’s Happy City lab conducted a Seattle experiment in which he found a strong correlation between messier blocks and pro-social behavior. Montgomery sent researchers, posing as lost tourists, to places he coded as either “active façades” — with a high level of visual interest — or “inactive façades” (like long warehouse blocks). Pedestrians at active sites were nearly five times more likely to offer help than at inactive ones. Of those who helped, seven times as many at the active site offered use of their phone; four times as many offered to lead the “lost tourist” to their destination. Fortunately, it’s not necessarily a dichotomy — new architecture can achieve the optimal level of cacophony and beauty. Take the 2006 Hearst Tower in midtown Manhattan. From the outside, the façade is likely to jolt city dwellers — if anything will — from their daily commutes, while “thrilling” employees who enter it each morning. Designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize–winning architect Norman Foster, Hearst Tower is a glass-and-steel skyscraper, 40 stories of which are designed in a triangular pattern contrasting the 1920s Art Deco base. For many who walk by, Hearst Tower’s design may not be the easiest to understand; it’s both sleek and old. The top looks like it traveled from the future. Inside, workers travel upon diagonal escalators, up a three-story water sculpture, through the tower’s historic atrium” flooded with light. It’s not the view from the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon, but it’s probably as close a modern lobby can come to awe-inspiring. Few New Yorkers who pass by would find this building boring. And they’re likely happier — maybe even nicer to each other — because of it. <cite class="credit"></cite>
  19. http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/good-architecture-pays-french-expert <header class="entry-header" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 15px; line-height: 24px; font-family: BentonSans-Regular, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">The good, the bad and the ugly: French expert assesses Montreal architecture MARIAN SCOTT, MONTREAL GAZETTE More from Marian Scott, Montreal Gazette Published on: April 13, 2016 | Last Updated: April 13, 2016 7:00 AM EDT </header><figure class="align-none wp-caption post-img" id="post-783124media-783124" itemprop="associatedMedia" itemscope="" itemid="http://wpmedia.montrealgazette.com/2016/04/montreal-que-april-6-2016-emmanuel-caille-is-an-edito.jpeg?quality=55&strip=all&w=840&h=630&crop=1" itemtype="http://schema.org/ImageObject" style="margin: 0px 0px 2em; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; overflow: hidden; color: rgb(255, 255, 255); float: none;"><figcaption class="wp-caption-text" itemprop="description" style="margin: -1px 0px 0px; padding: 10px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; zoom: 1; text-align: right; background: rgb(12, 12, 12);"> Emmanuel Calle, editor of the French architecture magazine "d'a", at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Caille shared his thoughts on Montreal's architecture. MARIE-FRANCE COALLIER </figcaption></figure>SHAREADJUSTCOMMENTPRINT What would an international expert think of Montreal’s recent architecture? To find out, the Montreal Gazette took French architecture critic Emmanuel Caille on a walking tour of downtown and Griffintown. He also visited the $52.6-million indoor soccer stadium that opened last year in the St-Michel district. Caille, the editor of the Paris-based architecture magazine “d’a”, was in town to take part in a panel discussion last week on architectural criticism, organized by the Maison de l’architecture du Québec and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). Caille’s verdict on our fair city ranged from a thumbs-up for the pricey new soccer stadium to shocked incredulity over a new hotel annex to the Mount Stephen Club, a historic mansion at 1440 Drummond St. <figure id="attachment_783141" class="wp-caption post-img size_this_image_test align-center" itemprop="associatedMedia" itemscope="" itemid="photo url" itemtype="http://schema.org/ImageObject" style="margin: 0px auto 15px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; overflow: hidden; color: rgb(255, 255, 255); float: none; max-width: 100%; width: 1000px;"><figcaption class="wp-caption-text wp-caption" style="margin: -1px 0px 0px; padding: 10px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; zoom: 1; text-align: right; background: rgb(12, 12, 12);"> The Mount Stephen Club. DARIO AYALA / MONTREAL GAZETTE </figcaption></figure>Built from 1880-83 for Lord Mount Stephen, the first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, it has been in the news recently after suffering structural damage during construction of the annex. Caille, an architect as well as an editor, did not comment on the structural problems, but he did give a visual assessment of the hotel addition, an 11-storey cement-panel structure tucked behind the mansion. “It’s quite brutal in the city,” he said. From de Maisonneuve Blvd., the hotel addition presents a view of three blank walls with a shed-style roof. “It’s astonishing. It’s bizarre,” he said. Caille was also perplexed by the front façade, dotted with small windows of different sizes. “What is not obvious is what relationship there is between this building and the mansion. I don’t see any,” he added. The hotel addition shows why projects should not be conceived in isolation, Caille said. City planners should have put forward a vision for the entire block, which includes an outdoor parking lot on de la Montagne St. that would have made a better site for a high rise, he said. Interesting alleyways and outdoor spaces could have been included, he said. “Everybody is turning their back to one another,” he said of how the different properties on the block don’t relate to each other. At the Ritz-Carlton hotel on Sherbrooke St., Caille said a glass condo addition completed in 2013 is a good example of how to update a historic building for modern use. But he criticized white PVC windows on the hotel’s Sherbrooke St. façade for their thick frames and mullions, which don’t suit the building. “That’s horrible,” he said. “Windows are the eyes of a building. When women use an eye pencil to emphasize their eyes, it changes everything.” <figure id="attachment_783158" class="wp-caption post-img size_this_image_test align-center" itemprop="associatedMedia" itemscope="" itemid="photo url" itemtype="http://schema.org/ImageObject" style="margin: 0px auto 15px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; overflow: hidden; color: rgb(255, 255, 255); float: none; max-width: 100%; width: 997px;"><figcaption class="wp-caption-text wp-caption" style="margin: -1px 0px 0px; padding: 10px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; zoom: 1; text-align: right; background: rgb(12, 12, 12);"> Construction workers work on the District Griffin condo project in Griffintown. DARIO AYALA / MONTREAL GAZETTE </figcaption></figure>In Griffintown, Caille was unimpressed by the banal architecture of condo towers that have sprouted in recent years in the former industrial district, which is undergoing rapid transformation. But the former Dow Planetarium at 1000 St-Jacques St. W. caught his eye. Built in 1966, it closed in 2011. The city turned it over to the Université du Québec’s École de technologie supérieure in 2013. ÉTS announced it would transform the building into a “creativity hub” but so far the building has sat vacant. Caille said the domed landmark has great potential to be recycled for a new vocation. “When a building is dirty and dilapidated, people don’t see its beauty. You have to see the beauty underneath the neglect,” he said. Today there is a consensus that older heritage buildings should be preserved but it’s still difficult to rally public opinion behind buildings from more recent eras, like the 1960s, Caille said. <figure id="attachment_783147" class="wp-caption post-img size_this_image_test align-center" itemprop="associatedMedia" itemscope="" itemid="photo url" itemtype="http://schema.org/ImageObject" style="margin: 0px auto 15px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; overflow: hidden; color: rgb(255, 255, 255); float: none; max-width: 100%; width: 1000px;"><figcaption class="wp-caption-text wp-caption" style="margin: -1px 0px 0px; padding: 10px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; zoom: 1; text-align: right; background: rgb(12, 12, 12);"> The 26-storey Deloitte Tower between Windsor Station and the Bell Centre. DARIO AYALA / MONTREAL GAZETTE </figcaption></figure>The Deloitte Tower, a new 26-storey glass office tower between the Bell Centre and Windsor Station, is nothing to write home about, in Caille’s opinion. “It’s developer architecture,” he said. “There’s nothing interesting about it.” Built by developer Cadillac Fairview, it is part of the $2-billion, nine-tower Quad Windsor project. That includes the 50-storey Tour des Canadiens, which will be Montreal’s tallest condo tower for about a year, until the even taller nearby L’Avenue tower is completed. Most people don’t notice the difference between good and bad architecture when a building is new, Caille said. But over time, the defects of bad buildings grow increasingly obvious, while the good ones become beloved monuments, he said. “People go to New York to see the architecture of the 1920s and 30s,” he said, referring to landmarks like the 1931 Empire State Building and 1928 Chrysler Building. “Good architecture always pays off in the long term.” Unfortunately, much development is driven by short-term considerations, he said. While a developer can walk away from a mediocre building once it’s sold, city-dwellers are stuck with it, he said. “For him, it’s no problem. But for the city, it’s a tragedy,” he said. “Today’s architecture is tomorrow’s heritage,” he noted. Caille is a strong proponent of architectural competitions, which he sees as a way to seek out the best talents and ideas. “It forces people to think and it shows that for every problem, there are many solutions. It’s a way of accessing brainpower,” he said. <figure id="attachment_783196" class="wp-caption post-img size_this_image_test align-center" itemprop="associatedMedia" itemscope="" itemid="photo url" itemtype="http://schema.org/ImageObject" style="margin: 0px auto 15px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; overflow: hidden; color: rgb(255, 255, 255); float: none; max-width: 100%; width: 1000px;"><figcaption class="wp-caption-text wp-caption" style="margin: -1px 0px 0px; padding: 10px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; zoom: 1; text-align: right; background: rgb(12, 12, 12);"> Kids arrive at the the new soccer complex at the Complexe environnemental St-Michel. PHIL CARPENTER /MONTREAL GAZETTE </figcaption></figure>The St-Michel soccer stadium has been criticized for its high price tag but Caille hailed it as an example of excellent design. The ecological building designed by Saucier & Perrotte has three glass walls overlooking a park in the St-Michel environmental complex. Caille said the stadium could be a catalyst for improvements in the hardscrabble north-end neighbourhood. During Tuesday’s panel discussion, Paul Goldberger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former architecture critic for the New York Times and the New Yorker, said that unlike other types of journalists, architectural critics rarely have an immediate impact on public opinion. “Architectural criticism must take a very long view,” he said. “One learns to think of one’s influence as more gradual, as shifting tastes and judgment over time.” Goldberger, author of books including Why Architecture Matters, published in 2009, has written that the critic’s job is not to push for a particular architectural style, but rather to advocate for the best work possible. He said the time in his career when architectural criticism enjoyed greatest prominence was following Sept. 11, 2001, during discussions over the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. “It was a time when architectural criticism really was, I think, front and centre in the public discourse,” he said. “There it was so clear that an issue of architecture was intimately connected to significant world affairs and one did not have to struggle to help people understand the connection between architecture and the rest of the world,” said Goldberger, who now writes for Vanity Fair and teaches at The New School in New York. In a 2011 review of the new World Trade Center for the New Yorker, Goldberger said the design by architect Daniel Libeskind “struck a careful balance between commemorating the lives lost and reestablishing the life of the site itself.” The panel discussion followed the awarding of two $1,000 prizes to young writers for architectural writing on the topic of libraries. The winning entries by Marie-Pier Bourret-Lafleur and Kristen Smith will be published respectively in Argus and Canadian Architect magazines. [email protected] Twitter.com/JMarianScott
  20. as much as Aubin is a loud mouth - he;s not far from the truth. A wake up call to forum members.. we all love Montreal but we need to seriously wake up. 2011/2012 was a bad 2 years - we need to improve MONTREAL — SNC-Lavalin Inc. — founded by francophone Montrealers, headquartered in Montreal and active in engineering and construction projects in more than 100 countries — has long been the proud symbol of Québec Inc. Now, however, it risks becoming a symbol of something else — the decline of Montreal’s place on the world stage. The company announced last week that it is creating its largest corporate unit (one focused on hydrocarbons, chemicals, metallurgy, mining, the environment and water) and locating it not in Quebec but in London; heading it will be a Brit, Neil Bruce. As well, the company also said it was creating a global operations unit that would be based in the British capital. To be sure, SNC-Lavalin denies speculation by a La Presse business columnist that the company might be slowly moving its head office from Montreal. The two moves to London must be seen as reflecting “our healthy expansion globally,” says a spokesperson. “The corporate headquarters and all its functions still remain in Montreal.” Nonetheless, this unmistakable shift of authority abroad takes place within a broader context of fewer local people atop the SNC-Lavalin pyramid. In 2007, six of the top 11 executives were francophone Quebecers; last year, three. Note, too, that only two of 13 members of its board of directors are francophone Quebecers. When the company last fall replaced discredited Pierre Duhaime of Montreal as president, CEO, and board member, it picked an American, Robert Card. What’s happening to the company based on René-Lévesque Blvd. is the latest sign of the erosion of Montreal’s status as a major business centre. Of Canada’s 500 largest companies, 96 had their head offices in this city in 1990; in 2010, says Montréal International, only 81 remained, a 16-per-cent decline. It’s true that Toronto, too, has seen a decrease (with some of its companies heading to booming Calgary), but it’s only of six per cent. As well, because Hogtown has more than twice as many head offices as Montreal, the trend there has far less impact. Anyone with a stake in Montreal’s prosperity should care about what’s happening here. Head offices and major corporate offices, such as the SNC-Lavalin’s units, bring more money collectively into the city than do big events — the Grand Prix and the aquatics championship — whose threatened departures cause political storms. Such offices employ high-spending, high-taxpaying local residents and attract visiting business people year-round — people who represent income for cabbies, hoteliers, restaurateurs, computer experts, lawyers and accountants. Indeed, this week’s controversy over the absence of direct air links from Trudeau International Airport to China and South America is pertinent to this trend. It’s not only federal air policy over the decades that’s responsible for this isolation. It’s also that Montrealers have less money, and one reason for that is, as Trudeau boss James Cherry notes, “there are far fewer head offices in Montreal.” Keep losing them and we’ll be a real backwater. But how do we avoid losing these offices? We don’t need more studies. Tons of studies — good ones — already exist. The No. 1 factor for a company when choosing a head office location is corporate taxes, according to a Calgary Economic Development study. Quebec’s are the highest in Canada and the U.S. Thirty-four per cent of the executives at 103 local companies say that Montreal’s business climate had “deteriorated “ in the previous five years, Montreal’s Chambre de commerce found a year ago. The main reason: infrastructure (not only roads but also the health system). A study called “Knowledge City” that Montreal city hall commissioned in 2004 is still relevant. Its survey of 100 mobile, well-educated people (some of whom had already left Montreal) found that their top three biggest complaints with the city were, in descending order, high personal taxes, decaying infrastructure and political uncertainty from sovereignty. All studies agree that the quality of Montreal’s universities helps attract companies. Weakened universities would lower this power. The Parti Québécois government’s minister for Montreal, Jean-François Lisée, declared before Christmas that he was “Montréalo-optimiste.” He did not, however, spell out concrete steps for addressing the above-listed problems. Too bad that his government on Jan. 1 imposed higher personal taxes for people with high incomes — which hits business people. Too bad it has reduced spending on infrastructure by 14 per cent. Too bad that it has not only reduced funds to universities by $124 million over the next three months but that it says it might cut their funding in other years as well — in effect weakening them. And, finally, too bad that Premier Pauline Marois said this week her party would soon launch a campaign to promote sovereignty and that her government would step up its strategy of wresting powers from Ottawa. In the next few says, she’ll further promote Quebec independence with a meeting in Edinburgh with Scotland’s sovereignist leader. Staunch the hemorrhage of corporate offices from Montreal under this government? The very idea is Montréalo-irréaliste. Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Henry+Aubin+avoid+losing+head+offices/7862525/story.html#ixzz2IrXbVaOH
  21. Even if i'm very intolerant of the PQ - and it's devastating consequences on the Quebec economy - this is why English Canada is half the battle. There's so much bullshit in this article I don't even know where to begin. http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/10/06/conrad-black-as-quebec-decays-toronto-seizes-greatness/ The announcement this week of an effort spearheaded by art collector and impresario David Mirvish, international architect Frank Gehry and innovative developer Peter Kofman to provide Toronto with a novel vertical, arts-based downtown residential complex is potentially a big step in Toronto’s quest to vault itself into the front ranks of the world’s cities — where it has sometimes prematurely claimed to belong. Whether Canadians from other centres like it or not, Toronto is now and will remain the comparative metropolis of the country, having surged past Montreal after that city entered into a sustained suicide attempt based on separatist agitation and accompanying racial and cultural discrimination. Behind the pretenses to egalitarianism that dress up confiscatory Quebec tax laws and repressive language laws, the real driving ambition has been to push the non-French out of Quebec, buy up the real assets they cannot physically take with them, especially their mansions and office buildings in Montreal, and eliminate up to half the emphatically federalist votes in the province. Montreal’s loss has proven to be Toronto’s gain. Historically, almost all Quebec’s non-French (comprising about 20% of the provincial population) are anti-separatist; and about an equal number of Quebec federalists are authentic French-Canadians who have thrown in their lot with the pan-Canadian option, and are routinely reviled by their peppier Quebec nationalist compatriots as vendus, sell-outs. (In my recent debut as a co-host with Amanda Lang on her CBC news program, the only line of mine that was excised was to this effect — so squeamish does the CBC remain about calling Quebec nationalism what it is: outright racism, at least in the worst cases. Radio Canada, the French CBC, is a notorious infestation of separatists.) The principal bulwark of federalism in Quebec, and therefore in Canada, has been the English-Canadians, who have habitually voted Liberal, and have been shamefully neglected by the Liberal Parties of Canada and Quebec (the first now eviscerated and reduced to the unimaginably dubious expedient of elevating a leader whose sole qualification for high public office was surviving childbirth, and the second defeated and discredited, and now about half English, despite all its ingratitude). But 50 years of nationalist pressure in Quebec, uncompetitively high tax-rates on upper income groups and the endless redefinition of the use of English as a “privilege” that can be whittled down and compromised, have driven over 500,000 people out of Quebec, most of them to the Toronto area. These former Quebecers, and the comparative welcome that Toronto has given external immigration (unlike the Québécois, who are generally hostile to any non-French immigration and none too accommodating even to ostensibly francophone immigrants who don’t speak like Québécois and aren’t too preoccupied with Quebec nationalism), has made Toronto an unusually, almost uniquely multi-cultural city. In fact, Toronto is one of the few jurisdictions where multi-culturalism has not been a disaster. The Netherlands has just rolled back its former official deference to the non-Dutch, and required assimilation in the education system, a belated response to an Islamist influx that is threatening domestic tranquility and social coherence. For less defensible motives, Quebec is placing further strictures on the teaching of English in the state school system, a terrible disservice to the province, which despite its ululations of sufficiency, is a demographically dwindling repository of a not overly dynamic French fact outnumbered 50:1 by its English-speaking North American neighbours, and which by its addiction to transfer payments from English Canada has become a white-collar secular clerisy that contributes little economic added value to anything. Electricity, over-unionized base metals and forest products industries, and a scattering of high tech and financial services are all that generate any earned income for Quebec now. The migrations from Quebec and elsewhere have gradually, over 50 years, transformed Toronto from a tank town of low church Protestant bigotry and ugliness, and radical segmentation between the Catholic and Protestant sections of an almost monochromatic white city — where only hotels had liquor licences, and cinemas were not open on Sunday, and even on Saturday night, everything (which wasn’t much) shut down before 11 o’clock — to a serious metropolis by international standards. The forces of racial and cultural snobbery and intolerance have retreated into a few fetid clubs, where the denizens fester like despotic toads in their unregenerate hypocrisy. Greater Toronto has over 6 million people, the fifth metropolitan area in North America, and 160% of Greater Montreal, and about one fifth of the people who live there are non-whites, and over 30% speak a language other than English or French at home, the exactly opposite policy to the desperate and restrictive cultivation of French in Quebec. These trends will continue, and the rise of Toronto as an increasingly important metropolis of a steadily more important Canada is almost inevitable. This is why it is hazardous, as well as dishonest, for the NDP to paint itself into the Quebec corner, complaining of Albertan oil, and calling, in effect, for repeal of the Clarity Act, to facilitate the separation of Quebec by a bare yes majority on a trick question, and committing the federal government virtually to ban English among its employees in Quebec. It is a disgraceful policy of pandering, minority cultural oppression, and regional abrasion, completely unsuitable for the official, pan-Canadian opposition. It is as if Gilles Duceppe and his unlamented Bloc Québécois had held its majority of Quebec MPs but also elected 40 people in other provinces, mainly Ontario and British Columbia. Returning to this revolutionary plan for Toronto’s entertainment district, all three project leaders, David Mirvish, Frank Gehry and Peter Kofman, are, in their different fields, innovators and creators, and precisely what Toronto needs to translate economic boom and ethnic diversity and population growth into a distinctively great city. Toronto is recognized to be liveable by world standards, and relatively safe and prosperous. But as a great city, it lacks history, drama and flair. History, dramatic historic events, epochal personalities, and great cultural achievements and trends can’t just be confected. And drama is mainly violence: the French Revolution and Napoleonic and other wars in Paris; the Civil War and Blitz in London, the drastic changes of regime in Berlin, and the incomparable drama of Rome, as the imperial and ecclesiastical, and then reunited Italian capital. Even New York and Chicago have the tragic mystique that surrounds gang and gangster wars, revolutionary and Indian skirmishes, countless riots, earth-shaking financial upheavals, 9/11. Toronto obviously does not seek tumult and bloodshed to tart up its ambiance; so to be great, it must ensure that more of its growth comes in the form of brilliant architecture — the construction of iconic projects of the future. The Mirvish project consists of a trio of unusually interesting, 80-storey buildings. It will contrast well with the city’s existing skyscrapers. (Three of Toronto’s impressive bank office complexes, for instance, TD, CIBC and BMO, while fine plazas, are just knock-offs from Mies Van der Rohe, I.M. Pei, and Edward Durrell Stone.) Frank Gehry, who appeared to be descending into self-indulgent eccentricity with his proposed memorial in Washington to Dwight D. Eisenhower that featured a statue of the victorious theatre commander and two-term president as a 14-year-old farm boy, has produced a beautiful design (though it would be better if the Princess of Wales Theatre could be preserved). Toronto must avoid the Canadian tradition of nit-picking the ambitious and original and, as it did when it built the new city hall, it must seize and promote this great and self-generated opportunity.
  22. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjTs3iZ7OHI The Montreal Gazette About time. Sucks that they charge 0.40 cents per transaction though.
  23. Avec quelques commentaires architecturaux pour vous tous. Source: Dallas News “This,” says Martin Robitaille, “is the Old Sulpician Seminary. It dates to 1685 and is the oldest building still standing in Old Montreal. And this,” he goes on, sweeping his hand at a building across the street from the seminary, “is Mistake No. 1.” The more formal name of the latter edifice is the National Bank of Canada Tower. It was finished in 1967 and is done in the International Style: 52 concrete pillars rising 32 stories, covered in black granite, framing black-tinted windows. “Its elegant, sober appearance was intended to harmonize with the rest of the historical quarter of Old Montreal,” according to a panel in the nearby Centre d’histoire de Montréal museum, but many, including Robitaille, think it most certainly does not. Robitaille could be considered biased: He’s a professional tour guide, and his beat today is the section of Montreal just north of the St. Lawrence River, roughly a dozen blocks long and three blocks wide, that is the city’s historic center. The quarter’s small, crooked streets are filled by handsome buildings of dressed limestone, some somberly Scottish and plain, some effusively Italian, with intricate carvings and terra cotta ornamentation. Stand at any of a dozen intersections — Sainte-Hélène and des Récollets is a good example — and you are transported, architecturally at least, back in time. Which is why Robitaille finds the incursion of something in the International Style so grating. It really ruins the mood. His tour begins at Place d’Armes, in the shadow of a statue of one of the people who founded the city in 1642, Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve. “They came here to convert the natives,” Robitaille says. “Not so successful. After about 20 years, it became a commercial center. The fur trade.” As European demand for fur grew, so did Montreal. Its success as the funneling point of pelts from Canada’s vast forests to the Continent made it the obvious spot to locate head offices when settlers began to pour into the west. “The Golden Age was from 1850 to 1930,” Robitaille says. “That’s when Montreal was at its best.” And that’s when most of the buildings in Old Montreal were constructed. Robitaille’s tour takes us along Rue Saint-Jacques, once the heart of Montreal’s — and Canada’s — financial district. At the corner of Rue Saint-Pierre he points out four bank buildings, two of which, the CIBC and the Royal, still perform their original function. The Royal’s banking hall, built in 1928, is “a temple of money,” our guide says: soaring stone, coffered ceiling, echoing and imperious. The other two banks have been turned into high-end boutique hotels . LHotel is the plaything of Guess Jeans co-founder Georges Marciano. Marciano has sprinkled its lobby and hallways with $50 million worth of art from his private collection, including works by Roy Lichtenstein, Joan Miró, Robert Rauschenberg , Marc Chagall, David Hockney, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. Across the road, the former Merchants Bank is now the St. James, “considered the most luxurious hotel in town,” says Robitaille. The top floor is where folks like Elton John, U2 and the Rolling Stones stay when they’re in town. We twist and turn through Old Montreal’s narrow streets. Hidden away at 221 Saint-Sacrement is one of the few old houses left, three stories, solid stone. Today, it houses offices. “Most of the architecture surrounding us is commercial, not residential,” Robitaille says. The banks were the most lavish in design, but the warehouses, many now renovated as condominiums, were nearly as spectacular. When Robitaille was a child, his parents never brought him to Old Montreal. Then, as now, it was a bit cut off from the present-day downtown, further north, by the auto route Ville-Marie. After the banks decamped in the 1960s, Old Montreal spent the next several decades in decay. At one point, much of it was to be torn down for yet another freeway. A slow-swelling preservation movement finally gained traction in 1978 when the grain elevators blocking the view of the St. Lawrence River were demolished and a riverside walk opened. Over the next three decades, investors began to see the value in resuscitating the neighborhood. Now, more than 5,000 people call Old Montreal home, living mainly in converted warehouses. Restaurants, cafes, small hotels and plenty of art and clothing stores keep the area bustling. A tour like Robitaille’s is a fine way to be introduced to Old Montreal. For those who want to know more, two museums, the Centre d’histoire de Montréal, in a 1903 fire hall next to Place d’Youville (the site of the two Canadas’ parliament until rioters torched it in 1849), and the Pointe-à-Callière Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History, are the places to go. In the basement of the latter are the ruins of buildings that previously stood on the site, along with part of the tunnel that Little Saint-Pierre River once ran through and the city’s first graveyard, filled largely with the bodies of those killed by Iroquois attacks in the settlement’s earliest days. For those who prefer to strike out on their own, Discover Old Montreal, a well-illustrated booklet published by the provincial government, provides a detailed self-guided walking tour and is for sale in both museums. For those who just want to soak in the ambience, the simplest thing is to start in Place Jacques Cartier and stroll first east and then west along Rue Saint-Paul, Montreal’s oldest street. (Its rough paving stones make comfortable walking shoes a necessity.) Robitaille’s final stop is at the Château Ramezay. Built in 1705 as a home for the governor of Montreal, it served several other purposes through the years, including sheltering Benjamin Franklin in 1776, before it became a museum in 1895. “It’s one of only six buildings from the French period, before 1763, still standing,” says our guide. A block away is the modern courthouse complex, finished in 1971 and designed by the same people who did the National Bank tower. “That,” says Robitaille with a final flourish, “is Mistake No. 2.” And so Old Montreal comes to an end.