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Griffintown: An Innovative neighbourhood with a legendary past

Saturday October 18, 2014

Griffintown: An Innovative neighbourhood with a legendary past

Griffintown: An Innovative neighbourhood with a legendary past

Long forsaken and overshadowed by Montreal’s downtown district, Griffintown is now a forward-looking neighbourhood that marches to the beat of its creative residents, restaurant owners and shopkeepers. Situated only a few meters north of the Saint Lawrence River, Griffintown is marked by artefacts that are part and parcel of the forging of Montreal’s unique soul; it is known to be one of the cradles of America’s industrial era.

Griffintown: From Immigration to the industrial Era

What makes Griffintown’s history particularly interesting is the fact that it first welcomed thousands of Irish men and women fleeing poverty and dreaming of prosperity in the promised land of America. Although the first wave arrived at the end of the 18th century, thus playing a huge part in the Lachine Canal construction that started in 1821, it is the great famine of 1847 that attracted most Irish immigrants to the neighbourhood. Back when it was called The Grif’ in honour of Mary Griffin, the town took on a life of its own, soon becoming a down-at-the-heels working-class neighbourhood that reflected the misery of its residents. 

Built according to urban planning principles that favoured the grid motif, Griffintown is a precursor to Manhattan’s design, dating back to the beginning of the 19th century. Work on the Lachine Canal in 1821, the Victoria Bridge and the railroad soon ushered in the industrial era for Griffintown, attracting the first big Canadian factories.

Nowadays, a stroll through the streets of The Grif’ is an opportunity to admire the old Police Station No. 7 on Young Street, the fire station No. 3, the Wellington Direction Tower, the Horse Palace, the ruins of Saint Ann’s Church and part of the New City Gas ensemble, all remnants of the neighbourhood’s past and part of the city’s heritage.

 Fire station No. 3 - Ottawa street, Griffintown

A lot like today’s Meatpacking District and Brooklyn, but with a Montreal twist

Neglected for almost half a century, Griffintown is now bustling with a new-found energy and has become one of Montreal’s most sought-after neighbourhoods for real estate investments. Following in the footsteps of Brooklyn, Williamsburg and the Meatpacking District, Griffintown is now a vibrant neighbourhood with a rich and unique culinary, architectural and artistic culture. Abandoned factories have been transformed into lofts, vacant lots have made way for innovative real estate projects and the best restaurants in the city now grace the streets of Griffintown. Many new shops, including gourmet groceries, drugstores and other service providers, will also be opening in 2015. In other words, Griffintown is buzzing with excitement!

What’s more, the City of Montreal intends to invest more than $119 million in municipal work and land acquisitions in order to reorganize the entire public domain. More specifically, 4 km of centrally located streets will be re-developed so as to enhance the pedestrian experience, and 4.4 km of bike paths will also be added to the network.


Griffintown: A unique and inspiring environment in which to settle and create

Because Griffintown has one of the most spectacular views of downtown skyscrapers and offers direct access to the Lachine Canal’s banks and recreational green spaces, it is now one of the best spots to take part in and enjoy Montreal’s unique and dynamic energy. Also noteworthy is the bike path which runs along the Lachine Canal. Not only is it one of the oldest bike paths in Montreal, it is also the third most beautiful urban circuit in the world, according to Time Magazine (2009).

Only a short walk from Old Montreal and downtown, Griffintown’s unique location offers an exceptional opportunity to enjoy the city’s energy while living in a friendly and dynamic community. 

David McMillan, Frédéric Morin, Patrice Demers, Jeff Stinco, Jean-François Gagné, Paul Soucie and Luc Laroche, known for their outstanding contributions to the city’s culinary flavour and nightlife, have all chosen Griffintown as the setting for their inventive and elegant cuisine. The festive atmospheres of their establishments are well-known and loved by local artists.

Grinder restaurant - Griffintown 

True to the spirit of innovation and technology, Griffintown also hosts important events such as C2-MTL, and is home to the ÉTS (École de technologie supérieure). Design, of course, is another of the neighbourhood’s strong suits, now that creative artisans such as Voskins eyewear and Ludovik boutique, as well as celebrated names including Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams, Celadon, West Elm and ITEM (Meubles Fraser’s new project) have opened shops in Griffintown.


Philippe Starck has chosen Griffintown as a place to praise the concept of democratic design

Quebec’s first residential building designed by Philippe Starck, the renowned French designer who once claimed that “Popular is elegant, and rare is vulgar”, is right in the heart of Griffintown. Launched by YOO, the residential and hotel design firm owned by Starck and his associate John Hitchcox, the building houses 84 luxury apartments emblematic of the essence and unique character of a neighbourhood built by working-class immigrants and rediscovered by 21st century visionaries.

 Philippe Starck

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