Whether we would like to admit it or not, the downtown of Montreal is dying. With the continued departure of many core corporate establishments, most due to the increasing difficulty in accessing the financial district from suburban areas, much of our office space is becoming vacant and with it the presence of people downtown. It is very important that a distinction is made between professionals and students. In actuality, our downtown is overrun with students. More and more this demographic has dominated the core our city and as a result, has had an extreme influence on the retail, commercial and entertainment makeup of our main destination streets shifting the dynamic of these areas to those composed of thjose that cater uniquely to the 17 – 28 year old consumer. This is the absolute opposite of what should be happening. Nearly nothing remains of the once high-society positioning of Sherbrooke Street, De Mainsonneuve, and Saint-Catherine. Any establishment of value has set-up shop at Quartier Dix30, Carefour Laval etc…why, because that is where people are now living. If we are to save the downtown, we need to repopulate it. This will not be accomplished with speculation driven rental projects but with projects that have been purposefully conceived, designed, and built for an end user clientele. With projects that address the specific current and long term needs of their inhabitants and the city as a whole. Most importantly, with meaningful, relevant and value adding architecture.
Architecture that will enhance the spaces we call private as well as those we share.
Integration into the surrounding, contributing the surroundings, enhancing the whole.
The more and more there are people living downtown, the more will there be the possibility of viable enterprise, commerce and retail of a progressively high-end nature. With this, the value of our city and its relevance on the international scene will change immeasurably.
We can help this along by increasing our collective understanding of what makes for a great city, a living breathing, active and dynamic mix of comings and goings, of ups and downs and of spaces – both shared and private. We can improve the situation by collectively demanding that the quality of the design of the developments made available to us, whatever our needs may be, are done so with thought towards the future and not just the present. We must insist that they make use of the best possible materials, sourced from local providers, those that will not demand that significant spending on maintenance or replacement is needed to ensure the long term performance or relevance of the very thing that we have invested our hard-earned dollars on.