Meet Montréal’s New Wave of Activist Developers

Collaborative upstarts are bringing Montréalers together in new ways, fueling neighborhood renewal and an influential political movement.

In the heart of a historically working-class neighborhood just southwest of downtown Montréal, a 90,000-square-foot abandoned railroad warehouse has become an unlikely symbol of the city’s future.

The massive red-brick building known as Bâtiment 7 has been vacant since 2003, yet over the last decade it has drawn thousands of visitors to its Pointe-Saint-Charles neighborhood. Originally constructed between 1924 and 1946 by Canadian National (CN) Rail, the warehouse closed its doors in 2003 when transport company Alstom shuttered operations. In 2006, the decommissioned historic building not far from the banks of the St. Lawrence River sold for CA $1 to Group Mach, a local real estate developer with a plan to turn it into a casino. If the casino had moved forward the story would have ended there and North America would have one more place to play the slots. But thanks to a dedicated group of neighborhood residents, Montréal took a less common route, one that offers lessons for other cities seeking to determine their own future.

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Victoria Krisman
Victoria Krisman is Interactive Media Specialist and Communications Manager for the Intelligent Community Forum.
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