Place Monseigneur Charbonneau

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Montreal’s office district, running between Dorchester Square in the northwest and Victoria Square in the southeast, is not terribly exciting. Compared to Midtown Manhattan, or even Bay Street, it lacks a certain high-stakes punch, the relentless energy of money being made in vast amounts, of high-stress streetlife scurrying from one meeting to the next. It feels provincial. But at least it’s pretty: over the past four years, this section of downtown Montreal has seen some huge improvements to its urban environment.

The change started with the overhaul of the so-called Quartier international, which included the construction of Place Jean-Paul Riopelle and the transformation of Victoria Square into a public space as refined and elegant as it had been, just a few years earlier, ratty and forgotten. A couple of blocks away, a series of luminescent pillars were installed in the median of University Street. Throughout the area, sidewalks were widened and furnished with attractive new light standards, traffic lights, benches, trash cans and bike racks.

One of the overlooked changes in the area, though, was the renovation of Place Monseigneur-Charbonneau, a small square at the corner of University and René Lévesque, right in front of 1 Place Ville-Marie, Montreal’s most iconic skyscraper. In 2005, it was reconfigured and nearly doubled in size. Granite and concrete were used to create an eye-catching pavement design and vegetation was arranged simply and effectively, creating a canopy above the square while keeping the views of the surrounding streets open. The same sleek, comfortable benches that are used in the Quartier international were installed here.

Like the redone Victoria Square, or the new Place Jean-Paul Riopelle, Place Monseigneur-Charbonneau manages to be both stylish and functional. I wasn’t even aware of the square until recently; before the renovations, it appeared to be nothing more than an overgrown mass of greenery marooned in a sea of traffic. Now, though, it has been well-used every time I have visited. Office workers eat lunch and chat on its benches, cabbies hang out near the taxi stand at the north side of the square, and its central location ensures a constant flow of pedestrians, at least during the day.

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This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Thursday October 25 2007at 01:10 pm , filed under Canada, Public Space and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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