Griffintown to get extreme $1.3B makeover

Montreal has approved a $1.3-billion housing project that promoters promise will revitalize Griffintown.

Montreal has approved a $1.3-billion housing project that promoters promise will revitalize Griffintown.

The mainly residential project includes nearly 4,000dwelling units, including condominiums and housing for students and seniors.

Promoters promise the development will inject new life into Griffintown, an industrial slum neighbourhood southwest of Old Montreal that was once densely populated but now only counts about 50 homeowners.

"It's a big face lift," said Jean-François Boulet, a spokesman for Quebec-based property company Devimco.

The company plans to preserve 12 heritage buildings, including two that have to be moved from their foundations to a new location.

"We keep the historythat's in place, but the rest we demolish and reconstruct," Boulet said at the project's announcement on Thursday.

Griffintown was theheart of Montreal's industrial quarter at the turn of the 20th century and was largely settled by Irish immigrants fleeing the Great Famine.

Much of the neighbourhood was razed in the 1960s when the Bonaventure Expressway was built. A handful of graphic design companies have since set up shop in the area, but it remains largely a wasteland.

The Devimco project will also include office space, boutiques, a 2,000-seat concert hall and two hotels.

Few business owners in the area support the project because of fears of competition.

At least one resident is concerned about being forced out of the neighbourhood.

"We're not interested in selling," Chris Gobeil said point-blank when asked if he'd leave his heritage home, built in the mid-1800s. "We've restored it, we've put a huge amount of money into it. We had no idea of the scope of their plans."

Devimco insisted no homeowner will be expropriated.

Montreal still has to hold a series of public consultations on the project.

Construction could start as early as 2009.