Public space transformed: Carré St-Louis

Saint Louis Square, Spring 2010

It’s amazing how things change. Forty years ago, this was where you came to purchase drugs and prostitutes. Fortunately, the gentrification of the surrounding neighbourhood, and in particular the stately value of the homes on Laval Avenue, has effected a major transformation on this beautiful urban retreat. Having spent a considerable part of last summer hanging out here after work, drinking with friends, watching the world go by, I find it exceptionally difficult to imagine this was once associated with dangerous hoods and gangland shootings. Certainly, its still got plenty of freaks and geeks waltzing in and out, bathing in the fountain, acting crazy etc, but such is the life of a beautiful urban square, which links the Prince Arthur pedestrian mall to Sherbrooke Métro station, the ITHQ and St-Denis Street. In a similar vein as Dorchester Square, this is one of those places you detour through because its simply so nice. I remember passing by the park in the middle of the day, but just after a freak rainstorm. The rain made everything glow, and the colours shone brighter than ever. People used their hands to wipe water of benches so they could enjoy their lunch, merrily leaping over puddles to guarantee a seat near the fountain in this little urban oasis.

Slated for renewal – Grain Silo No. 5

Montréal's Grain Silo No.5

Montréal’s historic Pointe-du-Moulin and Grain Silo No. 5 has recently been purchased by the Canada Lands Corporation, and I for one am rejoicing, as this is a major step towards seeing a major renovation of several large properties in the Griffintown/Cité-du-Havre area. The CLC’s plan can be found here – this would be one of five sites destined for renovation. As iconic as this building is, the space is generally dead, and the South-Central re-development, which began in earnest ten-fifteen years ago in the Sault-aux-Recollets neighbourhood, needs to be propelled West to assist with the transformation of Griffintown, and later, Pointe-St-Charles. But I would hope that every effort is made to integrate Pointe-du-Moulin with the rest of the urban core, so public transit to this area will need to be ameliorated, if it is to become an extension of the city, as opposed to a segregated wasteland. Moreover, such a location seems ideal for a major tourist destination, and I know the idea of a multi-purpose museum (including ‘traveling’ exhibits from the city’s principle museums – I’m glad this didn’t go too far) at the site was batted about a few years ago. Spacing Montréal provides some analysis and some great shots of the complex, and Héritage Montréal has considered the site to be threatened for some time – I think it’s pretty clear the prominence of the site, and our fascination with the rugged beauty of it, the juxtaposition of an island of rusting industrial calm surrounded by the polished facade of the Old Port – a dark and quintessentially modern Montréal aesthetic. In sum, I’d hate to see condos here, but what’s for certain is that a massive industrial ruin is far from ideal given it may impede development around it. However, if it was a functioning building that retained the aesthetic of an industrial ruin, well, I could certainly live with that. For the time being, the CLC could do the city a favour and allow more access to the site. Public consultations next year won’t be worth much if the people don’t have a good idea about what’s feasible here, and what this space is like, up close and personal.

Montréal’s Close Encounter

With many thanks to the public broadcaster that put this up gratis on the interwebs; amazingly the public broadcaster didn’t have this video in their archives…

On November 7th 1990 a couple was out for a swim in the heated rooftop pool of the Bonaventure Hilton. Looking up, they saw a large metallic shape with several bands of glowing lights, slowly hovering around the as-yet still incomplete 1000 De la Gauchetiere. Alarmed, they contacted hotel security, which in turn contacted the authorities. Police arrived on the seen and a small crowd gathered on the roof. They were all seeing the same thing – an immense, aerial vehicle, slowly maneuvering around the tower. The constables contacted their brass, including the commanding officer of the local police station, who in turn put a call in to the military base at St-Hubert, and then to Mirabel and Dorval airports. Nothing on radar, no military exercises, nothing official and no idea what it was that, at least officially, 300 people saw that night. Over the course of a few hours, the object slowly drifted across the city, moving northeast before taking off over the Big O. The police even went so far as to turn off the floodlights at the construction site across the street – it made no difference. It was generally silent, and even caused a power failure in the East End.

Some argued that it was a highly localized type of Aurora Borealis, though as someone who has watched the famed Northern Lights, I can say that no one calls the RCMP or the Canadian Air Force for suspected Northern Lights, especially not high ranking police officers.

The following is a great video with additional interviews made by Canal D (so its en Francais), check it out and come to your own conclusions, but for the record, this one is still one of the most well-known unsolved flying object cases ever recorded.