• April 18, 2024

At the Pointe-à-Callière museum, the exhibition The Heart and Soul of Saint-Henri tells the story of a neighbourhood’s 350-year journey of becoming an iconic area in Montreal.

One aspect explores its industrial evolution and decline: Once a smokestack alley of factories along the Lachine Canal, when southwestern Montreal contained the largest industrial centre in all of Canada and laid the foundation for where many call home today.

Lemay is one of them, with roots in Saint-Henri dating back to 1973 when founder Georges Émile Lemay moved the company in after a fire in the Verdun offices. Moving from one location to another as the firm grew, the team finally settled in 2019 in its present-day location: an abandoned warehouse dating back to the 1950s.

That building would form the basis for a socially and environmentally responsible creation of a unique work environment that could embrace the neighbourhood and the Lemay’s own humble beginnings.

“Our roots were in Saint-Henri and we wanted to stay here because you learn to embrace and love it,” remarked Louis T. Lemay in his interview, one of the many voices featured in the exhibition.

“There are many advantages to repurposing an existing building,” he adds, one of which being that “we preserve our industrial heritage, which is part of our collective memory.”

A new generation with a positive impact

Named “the Phenix” for its regenerative approach to architecture and the environment, the new office could not only keep the industrial heritage of Saint-Henri alive but be a transformative shift in its history by applying NET POSITIVE™ and its framework for sustainable strategies.

“In this building, we kept the concrete structure and brick exterior, but we replaced the windows, changed the interior layout, and upgraded the mechanical and energy systems,” Louis describes.

“The building is now extremely energy efficient. Our goal was to create the first net zero energy building in Canada, and we succeeded.”

Through preservation and designing sustainably for the future, Saint-Henri’s industrialized boundaries of railroads, old factories, and highways have been embraced to create something wholly new and beneficial for all. Reintegrating with the neighbourhood’s urban fabric, these remnants of the second industrial revolution support an ongoing revitalization and contributes to a new chapter in its history.

Rehabilitating existing buildings allows us to maintain the right balance between preserving a neighborhood’s heritage and modernizing it.

As transformed heritage structures merge with the urban landscape, they reconnect with the city’s pedestrian life through pathways for foot traffic, as well as public transit and bikes. Cultural and commercial activity increasingly comes alive in turn through festivities and businesses, supported by space that is appropriable, biodiverse, and public.

Today, the Phenix joins Saint-Henri’s ongoing efforts to mix residential, transformed industrial, and commercial buildings and create a vibrant place to work and live. “A hybrid model of a city where everything you need is within a 15-minute radius,” as Louis puts it.

When you call somewhere home, you become part of its community. This comes with a responsibility that runs deeper than working or living there—it means embodying it and making a meaningfully positive impact on it.

Hear the stories of Saint-Henri’s beginnings and transformation, and the people who make it what it is today, at Pointe-à-Callière’s The Heart and Soul of Saint-Henri exhibition until May 11, 2025.

Banner : Aerial view of St-Henri Neighbourhood (1955), Fond Armour Landry – BAnQ.