There they can shop, go to the movies, float a loan or dine at any one of many first-class restaurants, buy a diamond necklace, book a hotel room in the Queen Elizabeth, or take a train to Vancouver or Florida at the Railroad station, for both the hotel and the Railroad terminal are linked to this sheltered pedestrian world.
Facilitating consumerist possibility, this new urban space articulated the ideals of consumer capitalism in direct fashion, which would render the old business district of St. James Street an artifact of a more austere age.
In so doing, it aggressively advanced the commercialization of space in the new downtown. Zeckendorf introduced to Montreal a particular type of commercialism, an approach structured by his lessons in Manhattan: rather than production, the modern city was to be a site of corporate prestige, culture, and consumption.
But, it is important to note, while Zeckendorf had effectively marketed the prospective Place Ville-Marie development to the press and the broader public, in early , with so many necessary components of the project only aspirations, the chances of realizing it still seemed unlikely. And without major corporate tenants committed to long-term leases, financing would not be forthcoming.
The local barriers were significant as well. In January , one observer wrote S. James Street to Place Ville-Marie.
Public Affairs and Communications
From the outset, Zeckendorf was adamant about the need to market the development as a site of prestige to corporate tenants. I need one building. I need to have at least 1. Large quadrants at the base of the tower were introduced to house a grand banking hall for the Royal Bank. The making of Place Ville-Marie, therefore, was deeply rooted in corporate image-making, as the Royal Bank and Alcan, and later many other companies, sought to identify their brands with it.
In this way, it was a product of the dual nature of commercial real estate. A building, however, is both part of capital stock and a commodity. This dual nature of a building helps to explain the characteristic financial volatility of commercial real estate, since developers operate in a highly uncertain and subjective environment where current demand for office or retail space is only one of several factors to be considered. In this respect, Place Ville-Marie should be understood not as a rational response to a demand for office and retail space—for, as local realtors worried, demand did not justify the project—but as a project of manufacturing and marketing prestige to corporations.
He referred, upon different occasions, to what happened to the St. Denis Club the front of which is being removed to permit a widening of Sherbrooke Street and he left the impression that if it was all right to take the front off the oldest French Club, then there was nothing the matter with condemning the oldest English Club. The Place Ville Marie site, , with Ste. That said, the fact that the city announced its decision to expropriate the St.
The feeling seems to be that this antiquated structure has no place in Place Ville Marie development and that this is the appropriate time to clean the site.
But, only in late July, through a city councillor, did club members begin to learn about what the city was considering. The spectacle of the old order under siege: St. Not unexpectedly, the razing of the St. And though Drapeau had, like other members of the Civic Action League, voted against a controversial bylaw to have the city pay for expropriations and street widening needed for the execution of Place Ville-Marie in the summer of , when he returned to the mayoralty in he was quick to resume a cordial relationship with Zeckendorf.
The obliteration of the old thus paved the way for the modern, and allowed for the construction of a new myth. But Place Ville-Marie did not threaten to destroy capitalist privilege. In a very real sense, Zeckendorf, Gordon, Phillips, and Drapeau were members of a new generation of power elite, who in Place Ville-Marie were constructing a new urban form to supersede the ossified image of the St. Moreover, ongoing difficulty to attract tenants seemed to confirm fears that Place Ville-Marie would create an overcapacity in downtown office space. This enabled Zeckendorf to secure the large amounts of capital necessary for the project.
The speed with which the physical structure of Place Ville-Marie began to take shape obscured the lingering problems of the Zeckendorf real estate empire. And playing a central role in these developments was the London investment-banking house of Philip Hill Higginson Erlangers, and its chairman, Kenneth Keith.
Glickman, founder of the Glickman Corporation, had misled investors and used company assets for personal business ventures. The business and financial genesis of the project defies the narrative of modernization, of planning and progress. It is true that Place Ville-Marie established a new centre for the city and ultimately created new value in that location. Less than a month before its official inauguration, the Wall Street Journal reported that Montreal office building vacancies were at a staggering 26 per cent.
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However, these imperatives were not structured by a disembodied or idealized market, for the making of Place Ville-Marie—pursued by a constellation of elite figures—was itself creating and redefining the commercial real estate market in Montreal. Nor was this activity structured by a singular effort to achieve maximum returns on capital, for Zeckendorf operated—above all else—as a promoter of grand projects, as understandable in terms of male ego and status as profit. Zeckendorf declared bankruptcy for the first time ; it would not be his last.
The discursive construction of Place Ville-Marie by its promoters, as this study has argued, was an exercise in both salesmanship and cultural hegemony. The myth of Place Ville-Marie accommodated and absorbed nationalist aspiration, celebrated consumer capitalism, and projected corporate prestige.
Place Ville-Marie : Montreal's shining Landmark
The modern future imagined on that day was not to be. Underlying the imagery of Place Ville-Marie persisted remarkably colonial financial arrangements: the U. As such, it reinforced and revitalized capitalism in its new forms, a product of the dynamic social order from which it had arisen. I want to thank David Meren and Andy Parnaby for commenting on several drafts of this essay. Rebecca Khettou provided skillful research assistance. Caroline Durand, Suzanne Morton, Leslie Tomory, and Mathieu Lapointe offered helpful feedback and advice at different stages of this project.
The Place Ville-Marie complex also included a building at the corner of Cathcart and University, and two additional buildings that were not completed in These components of Place Ville-Marie are beyond the purview of this study. Vanlaethem et al. Athens: University of Georgia Press, , Eugene Rachlis and John E. See Zeckendorf, Autobiography , Hilary Ballon and Kenneth T. Jackson New York: W. Norton, , Marc V. His earlier involvement in public disputes surrounding the United Nations headquarters in New York and the Mile High Center in Denver had served as lessons in the importance of public relations in large real estate projects.
See Zeckendorf, Autobiography , 74—6, , Cobb, lecture, 4 November At Harvard, Cobb was also influenced by Joseph Hudnut. Jan C. See, for example, Charissa N. Muir, 3 April , quoted in ibid.
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Susan S. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, , — The quotations are attributed to Bank of Montreal president G. In the minds of planners, the enlargement of the boulevard was intended to channel the downtown development towards the east, but Place Ville-Marie brought this trend to a standstill.
For more on the St. See N. Mitchell, special project engineer, to N. John B. Sterling, chairman, Premises Committee St. Mitchell, to N. See, for one example, McDowall, Quick to the Frontier , Jermoe J. Structural and Dom. For example, type in Terrence Donnelly Centre in the search box. A title check in Primo shows Musagetes Library owns both titles.
Just write down the call number and get the book from our stacks. It's that easy! We want to hear from you. You're viewing the newest version of the Library's website. Please send us your feedback! University of Waterloo. Canadian Architecture: Contemporary Architecture. H44A4 S28 A4 Call Number: NA C2P S2F63x