A couple of nights back I was having a smoke in Cabot Square, arguably our city’s most dysfunctional public place, before a flick at the Forum. I think Cabot Square could be a great place, but a number of changes would have to be made, both inside and out.
As I was strolling around in the rain I noticed there was scarcely any grass, just lots of mud, gravel and poorly defined walkways. Immense and surprisingly deep puddles gave way to muddy tracks – who the hell had been driving through the park? It’s no wonder the park’s in such poor shape – someone’s been driving through it.
A couple of hours later I emerged from the Forum and got my answer – squad cars. I took the photo above, apologies for the poor quality.
I’ve seen the SPVM pull this manoever before. In lieu of parking the car and patrolling on foot, they drive through. More efficient I suppose, but it tears the shit out of the lawn/grass/paths/everything. When I was taking the pic two squad cars had lined up their driver’s side windows in the way cops do to maximize their field of view. I’ve seen the same at Place du Canada and in the middle of Place Emilie-Gamelin.
Cabot Square is one of those places that just doesn’t seem to work. Most people avoid it if they can, as it’s often overrun with drunks, addicts, pushers and a hodgepodge of local loonies. It’s poorly maintained and in the centre of an urban neighbourhood in a prolonged transformational phase. It hasn’t been renovated in a while and there’s no plan in place to fix it up (to the best of my knowledge), yet the city continues to dump seemingly unwanted sculptures there.
On the rare occasion the space is empty you can appreciate it for what it might be. It’s not hard to imagine what it would look like if the pathways were well defined, the square well-lit, with fresh, thick grassy areas, benches and picnic tables. It’s still located in the middle of a very active urban pole – there’s no reason it should look this bad and function so poorly.
But then again, we don’t treat it very well.
The cops shouldn’t drive their cars through it – it’s disrespectful, it’s actively ruining an already marred public space.
What I find ironic is that the cops who are doing this are ostensibly doing so to get the bums, drunks and roving bands of teenagers out, as it’s perceived that those groups are responsible for the damage to the square. And in the process render the space somewhat inaccesible. Who’s going to go relax on a bench next to some squad cars?
Cabot Square has a few other problems which, if corrected, could allow Montreal police to survey the area just as well, but without having to drive through park to keep an eye on things. If the space is ever renovated I’d hope they consider giving it the Dorchester Square treatment, which is to say better lighting and well-defined pathways to say the least. The city also elected to reduce the total number of trees in that square during it’s 2009-2010 renovation, an unpopular move that ultimately allowed for better lines-of-sight across the square.
Another issue – the bus shelters. This one’s a bit of a head scratcher as I can’t quite figure the rationale behind building many small shelters when the STM used to have one large shelter that served all the many buses stopping at the terminus. Whereas many smaller shelters invariably become public toilets, one large shelter could feature a public restroom, security and a control booth. Moreover it could be heated. Why the larger terminus building was demolished is a total mystery to me.
Final thought, and I know I’ve said it before, but I really hope Dawson ends up occupying the Children’s Hospital when it eventually moves to its new home at the Glen Yards campus. If this were to happen, Cabot Square would transform rather quickly as it became a satellite of the college’s campus, a backyard of sorts. Even though this in and of itself might not get the city to renovate the space, at the very least the presence of a lot of students will make it a little more inviting and result in the space being used a little more than it currently is.
What most people first notice is the Hornstein Pavilion, in the middle of the photo above, a Beaux Arts styled building completed by the noted Maxwell Brothers architectural firm in 1912. Today, this pavilion is dedicated to world cultures and archeology. If I recall correctly, it also houses Ben Weider’s collection of Napoleon memorabilia, including one of the late emperor’s undershirts. The Hornstein Pavilion features four massive Ionic columns and intricate bas-reliefs with a variety of sculptures and installations gathered in front. It doesn’t need the stately lettering along the edge of the roof, nor the signs out front, to make it any more obvious it’s an art museum.
The museum was previously located in the former Art Association of Montreal building on the northeast corner of Phillips Square, roughly on the same location of where that godawful Burger King stands today. The association traces its roots back to 1860, seven years before Confederation, when it was established by Bishop Fulford (this building’s name suddenly came to mind, it’s an old-folks home next to the Bar-B-Barn, steps away from Concordia).
The first major expansion of the museum was, logically enough, immediately behind the Hornstein Pavilion, and is quite possibly the least severe brutalist structure in the city. The Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavilion opened in 1976 and is today dedicated to design and decorative arts. It is built into the rising side of the mountain, the low, flat boxes of the pavilion jutting out like rock formations. Ivy, earth tones and set-back, dark-tinted windows enhance its natural aesthetic by reminding one of caves and crags, in actuality open-air spaces, terraces and balconies.
I’m not crazy about this new design as I feel it’s too out of step with its surroundings. We’ll see how it works out, I have a feeling the design may change a bit between now and it’s intending opening in 2017, for the city’s 375th anniversary.
After seven years of scandal simmering just out of reach, of dead-ends and non-answers, of finely-tuned PR and marketing shlock from government ad men, the dam’s finally burst.
A lot of people have been working very hard under increasingly difficult circumstances to hold this government accountable for its actions. Yet despite proroguing Parliament, the G20 fiasco, and numerous other contemptible acts perpetrated by the Tories, they’ve so far managed to expertly manipulate public opinion in their favour, allowing them to dodge most scrutiny relatively unscathed. As is their custom, the Tories throw various people under the bus without ever actually taking corrective action.
Adding insult to injury, the Harperites have treated both our media (and political process in general) with increasingly obvious and obscene disdain.
They’ve mocked and derided dissent, criticism and honest investigative journalism as politically-motivated extremism. Did you know the CBC was filled with Trotskyites? Neither did I until Pierre PoiliÃ¨vre so-alleged when confronted with a CBC News investigation revealing the Tories are planning on spending $250 million to develop ‘plans’ for a new arctic icebreaker. Scandal here is that the immense sum won’t cover the cost of actually building anything, leading anyone with an ounce of common sense to wonder just what in the hell that money’s going to be used for.
There was once a time when mismanagement and misspending of this magnitude would be enough for a government to lose the confidence of the House and force an election. But we’ve grown accustomed to government inefficiency, excess and above all else, a total lack of operational transparency. It’s despicable. Quite frankly I’m incensed we, the Canadian people, have been asleep at the wheel for so long and let them carry on like this.
It’s one thing for a government to be unaccountable. It’s quite another thing when government is unaccountable and contemptuous of anyone who dares question their actions.
I feel a lot of Canadians have been waiting for the pent up weight of corruption and incompetence to come crashing down. It’s happened to many of the lesser prime ministers and their respective governments, and this had made me hope with utmost sincerity that the crash’s impact will be in proportion to the actual, accrued incompetence. I expect it to be big. I have no faith in the Harper administration, I think this a blot on our otherwise decent record, and I’m thoroughly unimpressed with his economic record. Selling the country by the pound does nothing to improve the economy, and the only people who haven’t been ‘too aversely affected’ by the Great Recession are the nation’s elites. In effect, Canada’s conservative movement isn’t that different than the cabal of elites that is the modern American Republican Party; a party by the rich, of the rich and for the rich, a party that governs simply by manipulating PR and chanting soundbites until anyone attempting legitimate discourse simply gives up.
So consider those currently crashing back to Earth.
Senators Wallin and Duffy, once party media darlings, they’ve both decided to take the expressway to public image rehabilitation by resigning from the party but not Senate itself.
Pamela Wallin is under investigation for over $300,000 worth of questionable travel expenses, while Mike Duffy charged the federal government $90,000 in housing expenses for his ‘secondary residence’, a house he lives in most of the year in an Ottawa suburb. Oh, he also claimed per diem expenses from the government while on vacation, and then added expensed the Senate for campaign work he did for the Tories during the last election. But as Andrew Coyne points out, Duffy’s hardly to blame – the Tories have cultivated a culture of excess and scandalously improper spending.
Then there’s Nigel Wright, a wealthy businessman and Harper’s former chief of staff. He resigned today for his involvement in the Duffy scandal – apparently he wrote him a $90,000 cheque to cover up his ‘mistake’. Government lapdog Pierre PoiliÃ¨vre tried to pass him off as a wealthy benefactor who didn’t want this debt transferred onto the tax-payer,
Toronto is better than Ford, and her citizens deserve much, much better.
Ford of course is another one of those self-appointed apostles of the Harper agenda, a conservative bulldog already well-known for his troglodytic values, bully tactics and vile general comportment. His downfall won’t impact the scandal plagued federal Tories, but it does leave the Harperites without their primary roadside attraction in the 905 region.
Here we are, two years before the next federal election and the once mighty Tories are in full crisis mode.
The question now is whether the Canadian public demands blood. Resignations simply won’t cut it, thorough investigations must happen and the Senators must lose their jobs and benefits. The prime minister must be held accountable.
In sum, I’d like to thank every Canadian journalist out there right now who has been pushing for transparency and accountability and who’ll in all likelihood take the events of the last few days as a sign to keep the pressure on.
Things need to change – what we have is untenable.
This is also the time the Biodome and Biosphere came to be, new parks and public spaces were created, museums expanded etc. The film seems to switch back and forth between optimism for what the future might hold and a somber reflection on an apparent loss of status. The film presents reflections on the city as love letters.
It can be ironic in hindsight, albeit understandably so given the context of the city at that time. Early on the narrator bemoans the ‘loss of port and rail, the over-reliance on cars and how we’ve fallen behind in public transit’.
Today we would see things a bit differently – 1992 was 21 years ago after all, and times and attitudes really do change. Today’s public transit network is fairly sophisticated and broader than it was back then. We’re still over-reliant on cars but at the very least urban depopulation may have been somewhat successfully cut back. As to the port, well it moved further east, out of sight but hardly out of mind. And we’re still the rail king of North American cities, not to mention the interaction between these elements of our infrastructure maintains our position as a leader in transportation.
This film is heavy on design and architecture in a way that reminds me of what seemed to be a trend from the era. I remember a host of books published at the time, not to mention the recent arrival of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and all of it coming together in a kind of architectural reawakening, as though the citizens saw the gems that lay before them for the first time.
Like we all suddenly realized ours is a good looking city only when the film crews starting popping up all over the place throughout much of the 1990s.
In any event, have a look – I’m sure you’ll enjoy. A must for all Montrealophiles.
Well, the first post on this site from someone other than myself. My first contributor!
And he’d prefer to remain anonymous…
Perhaps it’s best. He’s been working for the city for a while now, and has the pulse of the city like few people I know (though, given his job, it’s not surprising he’s so knowledgeable, few would care to ask his opinion. There are many people invisible to politicians). We got into a conversation about the merits of Louise Harel as mayor, and he lent me an earful about her and Vision Montreal.
I asked if he’d write an article to express himself and he obliged under the condition of anonymity.
So without further adieu, may I present you l’Heptade du Sainte Louise Harel…
The first thing I really took notice of was a geriatric sitting in a pink jumpsuit, slumped ever so slightly over on one side, an oxygen tank leaning against her high chair. She had a neon yellow elastic chord attached from her jumpsuit pocket to a debit card locked into a one-armed bandit, pressing the button as though in a trance.
These are not the people we want in our casinos (admittedly I’m making a jugement call here, but she did not appear to be a high-roller; she looked like a senior citizen gambling away her pension cheque). Adding drink to the mix will make this problem worse. We want other people’s money – tourist money.
When it opened, it was supposed to be classy. The restaurants were top-notch, the chefs and wine selection unbeatable. There was even a dress code – jackets and ties for men, no hats, no jeans etc.
I think this is something we should maintain. Everything about our casino, as initially intended, was almost designed to de-emphasize the gambling. It’s not a big gray box. It doesn’t disorient the patrons by omitting windows. It invites patrons to step away from the gaming, to go outside and get some fresh air. These are design elements we should continue to value.
I suppose it’s not so bad if it’s rich people who’re losing their money – they can afford it.
But all too often casinos wind up preying, even if indirectly, on the poorest elements of society – they people most desperate for a financial break are all too often those with bad finances and who exercise poor jugement with their money. And whereas there once were controls – like the dress code and limitations on drinking on the playing floor – these have been shelved to accomodate the poor yet regular patrons who provide the bulk of the casino’s revenue during a prolonged period of economic instability, such as we’re experiencing right now.
But my question is this. Is this really the best way to increase revenue? How much extra coin could this actually produce?
And why look to locals as our main source of casino revenue?
But where would we build a hotel? Ile-Notre-Dame doesn’t have much space to support a large hotel, and construction may render the island temporarily unusable.
Permanently mooring a cruise ship or ocean liner within proximity of the casino presents us with an interesting possibility to get everything we need for a major casino expansion without having to build much. It would allow us to rather suddenly put a lot of hotel space more or less in the centre of the city’s park islands. Rather than building new we simply tow a full expansion into position. It would look good, it would be exceptionally unique and would further serve to provide a lot of direct financial stimulus for our otherwise underused (and at times worn-down) parc Jean-Drapeau.
And wouldn’t you know it, we could park a cruise ship or old ocean liner right here between the inter-island bridges. One would fit perfectly (though we might have to dredge the channel and temporarily remove one of the bridges) and I think in a broader sense fulfill a grander scheme for the park islands. I’ve often felt that this grand playground lacks any unifying cohesiveness – it’s simply the space we put all the stuff we can’t place elsewhere. We’ve purposely concentrated a lot of diverse entertainment in one space and have done well in maintaining that space’s utility within the public conception of the urban environment. Yet it’s still very detached, isolated even, from the rest of the city.
I feel a floating hotel solves more than one problem, using the location’s relative isolation to its advantage. For locals and people from the region, it could provide a much-needed ‘urban resort’, a place to get away from it all that’s oddly located in the middle of everything. For foreign tourists or families on vacation, it provides a hotel in a controlled environment almost exclusively dedicated to family friendly activities. Re-instituting the dress code and prohibiting drinking from the gaming floor in this newly expanded casino could serve to help sell the image of a classy and unique vacation experience catering to a wide variety of tastes.
Think about it – Parc Jean-Drapeau is a large multi-use park with a considerable natural component, occupying roughly the same amount of space as Mount Royal Park (2.1 square kilometers). It features, among others, a beach, an aquatics centre & rowing basin, manicured parks and trails, an amusement park, a historic fort and a premier outdoor concert venue. Placing a hotel in the middle of it, associated with the aforementioned casino, would surely drive up revenue not only for the casino but everything else going on at the park as well. It could conceivably make the park more useful during the winter months and provide sufficient new revenue so as to redevelop the Biosphere, Helene-de-Champlain restaurant and give the whole place a facelift too. And I don’t think it would take much of anything away from the city’s existing hotels as, from my experience, parc Jean-Drapeau is nearly exclusively used by locals, being perhaps a little too detached for tourists.
For your consideration, this rather handsome looking (and famous) ocean liner, the SS United States, can accomodate 5,000 people and is in desperate need of a buyer to keep her from the breakers. The idea of permanently mooring an ocean liner somewhere in the Old Port isn’t entirely new either. Aside form the fact that it’s already been done elsewhere, our own Mayor Drapeau wanted to use an ocean liner to house Olympic athletes during the `76 Games, with the idea being that the ship would be converted into a floating hotel, casino and convention centre afterwards as part of a broad facelift for the Old Port. His preferred vessel was the SS Normandie.
Definitely worth reconsidering, in my humble option.