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November 20, 2018

The planned skyscraper project that is dividing Quebec City

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Since its founding in 1608, Quebec City has gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful cities on the continent. Its gothic-style Château Frontenac stands on the edge of a cliff, looming over the chilly St. Lawrence river. The imposing building, together with the city’s cobblestone streets and a centuries-old hilltop fortress, are the closest North Americans can get to Europe without crossing an ocean.

But soon, Quebec City might have a new calling card: A 65-story skyscraper in the nearby suburb of Sainte-Foy—and not everybody’s happy about it.

“I hate it. It’s an ugly design. It’s a way of seeing the city that is totally outdated,” says city councillor Jean Rousseau.

The $755-million (CDN) building project is named Le Phare, the French word for “lighthouse” or “beacon.” The name, and the project’s placement, are intentional: It’s meant to be the first thing people see as they approach Quebec City from the west and over the main bridge. By the time it’s built in 2030, it will be the tallest Canadian building east of Toronto.

Current plans for Le Phare describe a “one-of-a-kind vertical neighborhood” featuring four towers of varying heights (17, 30, 51, and 65 stories) that will include condos, apartments, hotel rooms, seniors’ residences, offices, commercial space, restaurants, a daycare, and a performing arts center. Its tallest tower will be a glittering glass column inspired by the skyscrapers of Chicago and Dubai.

“It’s presented as vertical life: Live, work, and play. That’s the old utopia of Le Corbusier that we’re rehashing here, in a part of town that is in dire need of being better organized,” says Rousseau.

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