From the most popular to the most obscure; welcome to Mile-Ex! Feel free to use the map below to find your way through.
This neighbourhood is ‘the land that time forgot’ sort-of; it is close to some of Montreal’s most interesting neighbourhoods, and has easy access to downtown via bike or public transit.
The combination of transform(ing)ed industrial, high-design residential, and left over (read funky) spatial configuration gives it a ‘somewhere else’ feel. The neighbourhood is shaped by large scale transportation infrastructure; railways, overpasses, main thoroughfares, and an obscure bit of history that saw different land-owners/municipalities ignore the other’s efforts at urbanisation. In other words, streets rarely meet up, or link back nicely to the grid of the rest of the city. My first bit of advice is don’t go without a map – at least the first time!
You can get there by car, cab, Metro or bus, but I recommend walking from the uber-cool adjacent Mile-End. The two neighbourhoods combined have the highest number of artists per capita in Canada and together, they were named coolest neighbourhood in the world in 2016. The transition between them is this fascinating juxtaposition of heavy urban infrastructure and art.
Much of Mile-Ex has been covered with street art, sanctioned or not, and a bike and pedestrian path makes for some excellent public spaces with fortuitous views.
The street art on view in Mile-ex requires a bit of dedication. Located in parking areas, behind industrial buildings, much of it is highly politicised. These particular pieces were produced by different artists during the Unceded Voices Anti-colonial Street Artists convergence in 2014.
Other works on view are from local street art favorites; WIA, Sticky Peaches (occasionally).
Way to much to cover in its entirety, the offerings are varied, and delish, and that’s not even starting on the great Italian food available along St. Laurent Boulevard, the neighbourhoods eastern border.
Manitoba, Mile-Ex (5), Dinette Triple-Crown, are some of the well known establishments that I can vouch for personally. Le Pick Up (8) is a cozy/divey sandwich place, and Brasserie Harricana has excellent craft brewery beers and a menu to match. Reserve ahead if you can, or practice patience; these places are worth the wait.
Although I haven’t yet sampled them, there are also two restaurants from the African continent on the north-western edge: Diolo Traiteur a Senegalese restaurant and 30 juin (9-10). Likely overflow from nearby Park Ex(tention), I look forward to lavishing some attention on them in the near future; I’ll keep you posted.
Of all the important infrastructure in the area, the first railway has left some of the most interesting traces. The traditional city grid was skewed to accommodate the tracks and the industry that grew around them. Streets still skitter following the grid than tracks than grid again. One important vestige is la Parc des Gorilles – (does it stand for gorilla or guerrilla?) A green space overtook the original rail line when it was abandoned and removed in the early 90’s. Residents were miffed in 2013 when the land was sold to local developers who removed the mature trees that had colonised the site. The city finally expropriated the land in 2017, and are moving ahead with plans to develop a linear park through the neighbourhood.
Currently though, the gorilla park is a large swath of gravel and the backs of former industrial buildings. It requires an act of faith to (re)imagine this green space, but local residents and business owners are largely visionaries – a requirement to invest in this wonky, wonderful, way-out place. So take a map, check it out, or get in touch for a custom tour; it’s not a place you’ll want to miss.