[URBAN NOTE] “Montreal’s new CBC headquarters could help right an old wrong”
The Globe and Mail‘s Robert Everett-Green writes about exciting prospects for the new CBC headquarters in Montréal.
Incredible as it may seem, there was a time in recent memory when cutting-edge urban planning could include replacing a bustling residential neighbourhood with parking lots. If the CBC and two private developers have their way, a notorious result of that kind of raze-and-pave mentality in Montreal’s east end may be partly reversed.
The public broadcaster has accepted two purchase-and-development offers for its large and desolate Maison Radio-Canada property, which was expropriated in the 1950s from a working-class community of 5,000 people. The deals are the first step in a plan to build a new headquarters for French-language broadcasting on the site’s eastern edge, and a 280,000-square-metre mixed-use development on the rest of what used to be the old francophone neighbourhood of Faubourg à m’lasse.
“We’re definitely going to try to make up for what was done,” says Vincent Chiara, whose Groupe Mach plans to build about 20 silvery buildings of varying heights on the western portion of the site, including condos, social housing and retail and office space. Chiara also said he would restore some of the road network that criss-crossed the vanished Faubourg, and convert the 24-storey Radio-Canada tower into loft-type offices.
The new broadcast centre would be built by a consortium led by Montreal-based Broccolini, with Béïque Legault Thuot Architectes of Montreal and Quadrangle, a Toronto design firm that developed CHUM/MuchMusic’s pioneering broadcast spaces. Computer-generated illustrations and a video of the concept show a luminous, mainly glass-walled complex of buildings linked by a four-storey atrium. Elevated walkways will pass through the wooden-beamed atrium, which will be visible from offices and multiplatform studios, and will have the same versatility as the atrium at the CBC’s English-language HQ in Toronto. The aim, CBC president and chief executive officer Hubert T. Lacroix says, is to create a more compact, transparent and publicly accessible HQ than the old tower, where 80 per cent of the usable space was underground.