Imagining NDG is the overall title for a project which brings together a variety of documentary media about the neighborhood of Notre-Dame-de- Grace (NDG) in Montréal in an interactive website. The project was directed by Tim Schwab, a documentary filmmaker and Associate Professor in Communication Studies at Concordia University, and created in collaboration with graduate students, artists and community residents over a four -year period. The program invited input form several community groups and civic organizations to create a series of short digital videos, photo galleries, and oral history threads which address various aspects of community history, quality of life, and cultural change in the district of NDG over time.

NDG Then presents archival photographs and maps presenting aspects of the visual history of the NDG neighborhood in a navigable format along with contemporary soundscapes of the district today. Future plans for this section include the incorporation of excerpts from interviews with residents about the history and development of the district, as well as their own memories of growing up and/or living in NDG over the years.

NDG Now presents contemporary photographs and excerpts from interviews with residents about the present day reality of life in NDG. These are arranged in the format of linear slide shows with photographic images and a montage of interview excerpts each arranged around one of several thematic concerns which emerged over the course of the interviewing process. These themes focus most clearly on resident concerns about development, social issues and urban change in the district and the challenges facing the neighborhood in terms of quality of life issues.

NDG When presents several short documentaries about various aspects of contemporary life in NDG. Several of these were created specifically for the project, such as those about the Empress Theatre and the Wheel Club, while others were created by independent filmmakers and are presented here as examples of other work about the neighborhood. Some of the works are impressionistic visual explorations of the district, while others focus on very concrete issues. As a group, they are intended to show the many diverse ways in which residents encounter and interact with the physical and social realities of NDG.

All three of these sections of the project are based on archival and documentary material about the neighborhood and the stories of residents, and are connected to one another by common themes and subjects discussed in an effort to create the first stage of a multi-voiced 'community narrative' exploring the challenges and opportunities the neighborhood faces as it undergoes urban change. Through the BLOG section of the site, we hope to create a space for community groups and residents to share their stories, experiences and creative works addressing the future of NDG with the larger community. The community aspect of the work will be presented in a new version of the website in the fall of 2011 with additional material from the creative team and the public. We hope that public input and new material will help to more fully reflect the linguistic and cultural diversity and complexity of the NDG neighborhood, and encourage citizens to engage in a dialogue about the future of the district.

The district of Notre-Dame-de-Grace (NDG) lies on the west side of Mont-Royal and the city of Westmount, and is one of the last districts on this side of the island still part of the city of Montréal proper before suburban communities begin to unfold beyond its border. Much of the NDG district is bounded by physical and industrial barriers - the Montréal escarpment to the south, the CN rail yards to the west and north, the Decarie expressway to the east. A self-contained urban village with a long history, NDG has been described by many urban experts as having near-ideal population density and 'walkability'.

What is now the neighborhood of NDG grew up around the Notre-dame-de-toutes-graces church parish, located on the gently sloping plateau known as Le Coteau-St. Pierre west of Mont-Royal. The region's micro climate was highly suited to the growing of various kinds of melons, for which it became famous; many of the modern landmarks of NDG such as Benny Farm, the Loyola campus, and areas around Villa Maria were originally melon farms. The unified village of Notre-Dame-de-Grace was established in 1867, and incorporated as a distinct municipality in 1906. But the new town had a difficult time raising adequate revenue to build needed infrastructure, and was annexed to become part of Montréal in 1910.


While long considered an Anglo-Canadian enclave in a primarily Francophone city, the district is actually highly diverse, with significant ethnic communities of Iraqis, Iranians, South Asians, people with roots in various African and Caribbean countries, and others; a significant portion of the district's residents are French-speaking, and one-quarter of its population are senior citizens. With desirable housing stock and a strategic location close to downtown and major transportation hubs, NDG is currently undergoing rapid change. Rising real estate prices and the building of dozens of new condos are having a noticeable impact on the nature and diversity of residents and businesses in the district, and a series of current or planned large-scale projects, including the rebuilding of the old Benny Farm veterans' residences, construction of a massive 'super hospital' campus, and major changes to the surrounding highway system are all contributing to displacement and/or adaptation on the part of long-time residents.

At the same time, the revitalization of Concordia University's Loyola campus, the blossoming of small scale independent businesses along the historic Sherbrooke Avenue West corridor, and the potential of a long hoped for revival of the Empress Theater hold out the promise of fresh cultural and commercial opportunities in the area.


The objective of the "Imagining NDG" project is to create a portrait of changes in NDG over the course of four years, documenting the human, community and physical aspects of urban evolution and adaptation through creative and innovative uses of web-based documentary media. The project functions like a series of snapshots of urban change over time, and is intended to provide a platform for further creative reflection, interpretation and contemplation of the neighborhood and life in it by the public.