MUPpets in the field: Armi

Today’s summer internship update is from Armi, who has spent the summer working with a really great consultation company based on Montreal.

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This summer I have been blessed with the opportunity to fully experience and engage with Montreal through my internship with Convercité.

Convercité l’agence de valorization urbaine (Urban Enhancement Agency) is a non-profit firm that organizes consultations and conducts research through studies of the market, community needs, and feasibility and also monitors projects and performs follow-up studies.  The name comes from our 3-prong approach to guiding and facilitating development: to converse with relevant actors and parties affected, to converge these ideas and work towards a common objective, and to convert these ideas into a common vision that will benefit the entire community. The firm has a well-known reputation for its capacity for engaging dialogue and collaboration with the public, developers and decision makers.  Just last month, our firm was mentioned in Le Devoir,the most trusted francophone newspaper in North America (see end of page for link). Nearly all the projects I have dealt with are in Montréal although the firm also has projects in Gatineau, Ottawa and other parts of the country.

With this internship, I get to enjoy the sun, the community and the events on and off the job and am not always sitting in front of a computer (although that’s quite a luxury when it rains). Often, I am out and about taking surveys in both English and French to get some feedback from the public using a snazzy device called Palme that basically looks like an i-pod. Not only are we saving trees, but we also get to work more efficiently by plugging this device into the computer afterwards to obtain the results ready in SPSS format.

Most of what I have been doing involves the skills that I have learned in my Planning Methods class. There are 2 major projects that I am working on where I am continuously applying these skills.

Quartier des Spectacles

One project that I have been working on pertains to universal accessibility around the Quartier de Spectacles (QDS), the area around Station Place des Arts. During the Just for Laughs and African Nights festivals, I would go around asking people with personal limitations about their concerns with the area and how they think QDS should improve to give them a more safe and comfortable experience. I would also monitor pedestrian and cyclist movement throughout different times of the day, then enter the results onto excel and visually onto a map using Adobe Illustrator.

La Marquis de la Plaza St Hubert

Another project that I have been working relates to the future of the marquis of Plaza St. Hubert. This commercial strip mall is commonly identified for its marquis or glass canopy structure that covers the sidewalks. It is well-known for its sidewalk sales and abundance of stores that sell wedding dresses. During their sales, you can find dresses as cheap as $10!

Currently, there is a debate as to whether or not to keep the marquis, renovate it (either partially or in full), or to remove it altogether. Although the marquis is aesthetically pleasing and is very convenient when it rains or snows, it also attracts many pigeons. Despite how much businesses value the marquis, they have expressed concerns of the frequent pigeon droppings causing hygiene problems. There have also been complaints about the lights with the plaza blocking the signs of the stores.

In response, the SDC (Société Dévelopment Commercial), the entity in charge of maintaining the plaza, has consulted Convercité to study the built environment, gather opinions among clients, non-clients, businesses operating along the strip, partners, and sponsors, research the costs, evaluate the options and give our recommendations. The City of Montréal owns the marquis and will therefore have the final decision. The goal is to complete 75 surveys (there are 3 surveyors in total so I had to do 25) during an event and 75 surveys outside of an event. After the options have been evaluated, there will be a consultation that should be taking place sometime in the middle of the fall.

So far, we have finished studying the area by observing and analyzing the built environment and some of the costs of the options. Particularly, I visited the site and took photos to see which stores rely on the structure to hold up their signs, which stores have signs that are blocked by the lights of the marquis, and also to investigate the scale of the pigeon problem.

Recently, I have also completed just over 30 surveys at the Ados Fest. So far, most of the people I have talked to prefer to either keep the structure or renovate it. A couple had been unsure and indifferent, and so far no one that I have talked to wants to remove it. After finishing my work, I had the opportunity to see the flash mob performance by some of the teenagers in the neighbourhood.

Overall, I feel very fortunate to have my first job in Quebec that’s relevant to urban planning with a firm whose values I agree with, despite me being an Anglophone from a city that most other parts of Canada hate (well, okay born in Toronto but raised in its suburbs of Scarborough and Pickering). Allow me to summarize: great projects, great events, great challenges, great people, great city, great events, great language, and great food—oh yea, you bet I’m happy.

If you would like to learn more about some of our projects, feel free to go to http://www.convercite.org/ (mostly in French).

Corriveau, Jeanne. “L’avenir des marquises encore à l’étude”. Le Devoir,  5 July 2012. Available from:

 http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/montreal/353903/l-avenir-des-marquises-encore-a-l-etude

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MUPpets in the field: Armi

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