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Residents in Montreal’s Griffintown upset over plans for student housing tower

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Montreal’s Griffintown residents upset over plans for student housing tower
WATCH: A group of Griffintown residents and workers are concerned about a new non-profit student housing project planned for the area. Anger is growing over what they see as a lack of consultation. They also fear the project will affect quality of life in the area. As Global’s Phil Carpenter reports, there is a petition to save a long-time business that will have to close with little warning – Jan 15, 2024

Garage owner Serge Attar says he has no idea what he’ll do come March this year.

“Because I need to move,” he told Global News. “I need to move. I’ve been here 40 years.”

Attar rents the building on de l’Inspecteur Street in Montreal’s Griffintown neighbourhood but the owner has big plans for the space, with construction set to start this year.

“This location right next to downtown is where we hope to be building almost 300 units of affordable student housing in a couple of years time,” explained Laurent Levesque, CEO for Utile, an organization that specializes in non-profit student housing in Quebec. “We’re looking at about 19 storeys of student housing on a part of the property.”

According to Attar, he was given less than four months notice to move and that is not enough time, given that it’s very hard to find another place close to downtown. He wants to remain close to the city centre, where he’s built a large client base over four decades.

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Across the street, people in two condo buildings are also upset about the project. It’ll be nearly twice the height of their condo complexes and some residents complain it’ll block their view of downtown. Others argue that a tower that tall just doesn’t fit in the area where most buildings are between four and six floors.

“We don’t have anything against affordable student housing here,” condo resident Shaun Fawcett stressed. “Just make it eight or 10 storeys.”

People in the area also decry what they see as a lack of consultation, and say that one information session held just before the holidays wasn’t enough. As for concerns about the height, Levesque stresses that building up instead of out over a limited space will give them more units, which are urgently needed, given the lack of affordable student housing.

“This project, that we hope to see move quickly, will only begin to scratch the surface of demand in Montreal,” he said.

In a statement, the city says the project aligns with plans for the sector.

“Consistent with the recommendations of the OCPM’s 2023 Griffintown sector report, it is part of a broader sector planning that takes into account a certain offer of student housing to ensure a mixed living environment,” the statement reads in part. “In the midst of the housing crisis and while students are among the most affected by residential precariousness, it is more urgent than ever to develop such innovative real estate projects.”

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Utile refused to give details of its discussions with Attar because talks are ongoing, it says. Levesque says the organization is open to hearing from the community and could make changes to the project if necessary.

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