Building a community in Griffintown

[Vues sur la Bourgogne, Vol 5, no 3 – Fall 2016]

Mention the word “Griffintown” in conversation and you’ll likely hear as many opinions as there are people in the room – maybe more. Yet while seemingly everyone has a view on the local condo boom, less is known about the people who call Griffintown’s rising skyline home, or how they feel about their new community.

We know that Griffintown is young: 37% of residents are aged 25-34, compared to 20% in the South-West as a whole and just 17% Montreal-wide. We also know that more than half (54%) the neighbourhood lives alone and that families with kids make up only a third (34%) of the population. A familiar complaint for many Griffintown parents is the lack of local public schools – the closest is the École de la Petite-Bourgogne on rue des Seigneurs.

What little is known about Griffintown residents tends to be wildly out of date. The statistics above are from the 2011 census – the most recent publicly available data. Even then, numbers show that the local population had exploded by more than 80% compared to ten years previous. Next year, when census data from 2016 is released, we will likely see that the face of Griffintown has changed once again.

While schools are often pillars of community involvement, their absence in Griffintown doesn’t mean local people have no interest in connecting. For Florian Carpentier, it’s important that the style of community engagement matches the young, urban professional character of those who live in today’s Griffintown.

Like many of his neighbours, Carpentier is a recent arrival to Griffintown, moving to the neighbourhood in early 2015. As part of a group of six local residents, he founded L’Association des résidents de Griffintown, with a vision of creating a positive space for communication between neighbour. While not yet officially registered as an association, it operates through a platform many will be familiar with – a Facebook group.

“It’s a modern type of community spirit”

“It’s a modern type of community spirit,” admits Carpentier. “People tend to talk more on social networks than meet up in real life. So we’re really talking about Community 2.0, more virtual than real.”

He describes the association as “a unique vector of communication that functions in three ways: resident to politician, politician to resident, and resident to resident.”

Today, the Facebook group boasts more than 840 members. Politicians such as city councillor Craig Sauvé, South-West borough Mayor Benoit Dorais, and local MP Marc Miller have all signed up, recognizing the group’s potential for directly communicating with residents.

Beyond local politics and the online world, the Association wants to encourage a real-world sense of community. The group functions as a message board for people in Griffintown looking to swap services, borrow household items or meet up. But the Association is also venturing into event-planning. In June, they held a block party at the beach volleyball courts at Ollier and Séminaire, and are hoping to organize more events in the months ahead.

Griffintown is…

Growing: Population (as of 2011) is 6,446 – up 69% from 2006 and 83% from 2001.

Bilingual: 74% of residents with knowledge of either official language speak both English and French.

Highly educated: 77% have a university-level degree or certificate.

Homeowners: 65% own their home while 35% rent (in the South West as a whole, 32% own and 68% rent).

A new community: 70% of Griffintown’s population moved to the neighbourhood within the past 5 years.

Source: Ville de Montréal, Profil de quartier Griffintown (Statistics Canada: 2011 Census of Population, 2011 National Household Survey).

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