Montreal not well known to tourists
A recent poll shows that Montreal’s attractions are not well known to world tourists although some point out the Olympic stadium as a feature, which is giving the tourism ministry hope for more money to “improve” the surrounding area. Olympic park management is also hoping to get a new roof onto the stadium by 2016.
Montreal is like many B-list towns, in that it’s not one or two big shiny or historic things that stand out here, but the general quality of life and visual texture of our streets that’s attractive. Unfortunately, bureaucracy has no idea how to extend or re-create that – and I’m not the first to wonder why.
We love the Plateau and Mile End and older streets like Wellington, Masson and Mont-Royal, but modern redevelopments – check out newly rebuilt areas like the new housing built behind Rosemont metro on the old city yards site, or the Faubourg Quebec stuff east of Old Montreal – are usually built of 100% residential complexes. You probably have not gone to look at those areas, because nobody has any reason to be there unless they live there. New Griffintown is likely to be the same. No reason for tourists to walk through these streets. People talk wistfully about re-creating a Plateau vibe, but build new condos right to the sidewalk edge without anything for passersby at street level – and wonder why these neighbourhoods become moribund dormitories full of strangers.
A traditional neighbourhood is a live thing. You see your neighbours in the streets, run into them at the store or the corner café, and people gradually build a web of friends and acquaintances (exes and enemies, too – let’s not get too sentimental). Human beings have been doing this since the first urban settlements were built. But now, when a building is a stack of pods from which you descend to the garage and drive away to do your shopping and eating at some random distant point, there is no life where you live.
This city badly needs to tweak and enforce better zoning to avoid the worst of this, but can they see the need to rebuild parts of the city in a better way? Montreal does not have the Eiffel Tower or Piccadilly Circus and our major known landmark is a stadium we don’t use any more. What we have to offer is the life in our streets – which is to say daily life, and not a corporately sponsored month of festivals every summer – and we need to recognize what creates it and learn how to foster and extend it, or we won’t have anything at all.