Redevelopment of Griffintown: does history hold the answers?

In its heyday well over a century ago, Griffintown was home to tens of thousands of residents, predominantly working families, who lived in low-rise buildings and worked within the neighbourhood or nearby.

In 2010, Montreal is struggling to grow, to retain the tide of families emigrating off-island, and to promote active and public transportation.

Is 19th century Griffintown what we're actually after?

It is, of course, all too easy to romanticise the past. The old Griffintown lacked sanitation, was rife with poverty and crime, and was as far from a model neighbourhood then as it would be today. Nonetheless, the community was densely populated by families without the need for personal transportation. Would it be possible to restore these enviable qualities without the vices? Are advancements such as electrification, universal indoor plumbing and higher education all that is/was missing?

What if we replaced parking lots with simple but proud low-rise buildings containing reasonable family living spaces and interspersed them with light commercial and industrial developments? After all, that's how the neighbourhood first blossomed (from fields rather than parking lots).

Is the answer really that simple? Why not find out? Montreal can afford to shed a few parking lots: the ill-fated mega-projects seem to create more than they replace anyway!

Griffintown urbanism in 1879: note the average size of lots and buildings
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