Thousands of Montrealers Express Their Thoughts on the Van Horne Warehouse Project

With its industrial brickwork and iconic water tower towering over its roof, the Van Horne warehouse has stood for nearly 100 years in Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood.

A developer now wants to turn it into a hotel and an office building, with commercial space on the ground floor.

But that would require a zoning waiver, and before the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough council approves such a change, it’s getting a sense of what the community thinks with an online survey that people have up to. to February 12 to respond.

Com. Marie Plourde said some 5,000 people responded in the first 24 hours after her appearance on Monday, and that’s “really huge” because a good turnout is usually a few hundred.

“It shows how attached the people of Montreal are to this building,” said Plourde, who represents the Mile End neighborhood and has a background in urban planning.

The Van Horne warehouse was built almost 100 years ago. It cannot be converted into a residential building because it is so close to the railway line. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)

Built around 1925, the seven-story building was constructed to store goods. It was designed with an unusual triangular shape so that it could be wedged between the railway tracks, Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Van Horne Avenue.

The proposed project includes the transformation of the building and a new construction on a neighboring plot that connects to the warehouse.

However, this will not happen without the council’s green light.

Get feedback from the community

“Before going through this process, we want to see if there’s any kind of social acceptance in the neighborhood,” Plourde said.

The development company behind the project has already posted plans for the property online, prompting a strong response from the community, she said.

And while many people might want housing instead of the proposed project, that’s not possible under regulations that require setbacks from the railway line for residential construction, according to the city.

Beyond these regulations, the area is already designated for economic development in the city’s urban plan.

Laurence Morel lives nearby and was one of thousands to complete the online survey. She said a hotel is good because it will reduce the need for short-term rental services like Airbnb. Often these services are illegal, she said, and take long-term housing away from the area.

“I think people are more willing to go to hotels than Airbnb,” she said.

Such a project would also encourage more pedestrian infrastructure so that people on foot can get around more easily, she said.

Woman standing on city street with brick building in background
Laurence Morel lives about 10 minutes away on foot and works in the neighborhood. She hopes such a project will reduce the need for Airbnb rentals and increase pedestrian infrastructure. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)

Glen LeMesurier, a sculptor who has a studio near the warehouse, has been active in the neighborhood for about 25 years. He manages Twilight Sculpture Garden, a lot filled with artistic creations next to the building.

The building is barely used and will not survive unused and unmaintained, he said. Being left vacant will lead to further deterioration, he said, and he supports any project that prevents demolition.

“How long do you want to keep it empty?” ” He said. “It’s been empty since I started the garden in 99.”

People care about building

Dinu Bumbaru, director of policy at Heritage Montreal, said the building is somewhat protected as it is designated as a heritage asset by the city.

The borough, when evaluating any proposed project, must take this into account before approving any project, he said.

This particular building is part of the cityscape and has a strong presence in its neighborhood, he said.

“People have developed an affection for it,” Bumbaru said.

The developer contacted Heritage Montreal to discuss the building, he said. There are concerns that any changes will detract from the character of the building, but it’s refreshing to see the borough reaching out to the public to see what people think, he said.

Such a project would help preserve the structure, he added, and “we see some value in the developer stepping forward and breathing new life into the structure.”

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