I’m keen on the design of this building even though I’m not 100% sold on how this area is being developed. There’s no doubt in my mind L’Avenue is going to be an important landmark on our future city-scape, but I’d nonetheless prefer to see the city take a leading role in conceptualizing an overall design plan for the area. Perhaps I’m jumping the gun though, the four principle projects in the immediate vicinity of the Bell Centre are all still in their sales phase, it will be a while still before we get to see this.
But once it’s up, I think it will be a stunning addition to our skyline.
It will be the tallest residential building in the city, stacking up at fifty storeys with 325 suites offering one, two and three-room models, each fitted with high ceilings, and a private balcony, not to mention what would doubtless be some rather spectacular views up amongst the giants of the city centre.
The tower is composed of three distinct volumes blended into one another in a staggered fashion, growing out and up from the southwest towards the northeast much like a fountain. It’s stationed on an eight-storey base the developer hopes will be primarily utilized as commercial retail and office space, following a trend I noticed recently in Vancouver combining commercial and residential properties into an iconic building where the attractive tower is principally mixed-use residential. The L-shape will have the tower focused on Rue Drummond, with a spacious courtyard providing an exclusive address on an otherwise uninhabited part of the street. The alternating use of dark tinted glass and dark exterior finishings with the slight blue tint of the less opaque glass does a good job hiding the balconies, which the developer pointed out as one of the fundamental elements of urban living – access to a full size exterior space on an individual level is key, though like many other recent condo towers and urban living concepts, residents will also have access to large shared facilities as well.
Suffice it to say if I had the money I’d consider living here, as at the very least I’m already convinced the building will age well and likely be a coveted address for some time to come. If the market stabilizes and we somehow evade a major housing market correction, this could become a valuable piece of downtown property.
What concerns me is that the city is completely uninvolved in any form of urban planning in this new high-density, urban residential neighbourhood. It’s both fascinating and somewhat confounding. The projects listed (such as L’Avenue and it’s soon to be neighbours, Roccabella, Icone and Tour de Canadiens de Montréal) are listed as part of the Montréal 2025 ‘master-plan’ but the city is so far leaving this plan’s ‘design’ up to market demand. So far the market has proven at least interested, but without the city’s involvement some no-brainer elements of neighbourhood design are being forgotten entirely.
My primary concern is that the city has so far made no plans to utilize the massive amount of development in this sector to expand the Underground City.
Here we have L’Avenue, in addition to the other buildings to go up in the parking lot adjacent to the Bell Centre, but they won’t be connected to the Réso system quite literally across the street. If the city were to mandate the construction of a Réso tunnel running north from the Bell Centre towards Boul. de Maisonneuve, several buildings (such as those to be built, in addition to the Cité du Commerce Electronique, the Sheraton Centre, Tour CIBC, La Crystal de la Montagne and the future Maison Ogilvie redevelopment) would be directly connected to the underground infrastructure, two Métro lines and four Métro stations. In addition, we would finally have a legitimate residential component to the Underground City and we’d further have the means to link up numerous additional medium sized residential buildings located between Peel Métro and the Réso component at Concordia’s Sir George Williams campus. It would help ease traffic circulation, increase the value of attached properties, and allow greater access to the public mass-transit system. Of all the natural extensions of the Réso, the concentration of large-scale redevelopment projects in the sector roughly bounded by de Maisonneuve, St-Antoine, de la Montagne and Peel makes this area the best choice for expansion.
Then of course there’s the lack of social services. The city hasn’t mandated any new schools, daycares, medical clinics, community or cultural spaces of any kind in this area (or any other part of the downtown for that matter). Granted the developments are principally being oriented towards singles and young couples without families, but in order to better establish a sense of community in this sector, such facilities are necessary so as to attract and retain families. Families are typically far better wealth generators and wealth maintainers than individuals and couples who are invariably more mobile; in other words families might be less inclined to simply flip their property relatively shortly after initial purpose. Why will people continue living in a place so many quickly move out of? What’s the attraction for someone to stay here?
Providing an access tunnel would give the new developments a degree of marketable cachet, but going a step further, so as to include the building blocks of an identifiable neighbourhood, would help these buildings acquire something more valuable – a sense of permanency.
Without such a sense, buildings like these will be more greatly affected by changes in the market and personal tastes. In my eyes, the development’s investment potential and financial security is more secure if the city matches private investment with public, sustainable social development.
With this in mind I would hope the city takes the very broad 2025 plan and divide it up into smaller constituent parts, conceptualizing our shared space in terms of small-scale viable neighbourhoods in a large, multi-faceted urban centre.