Heritage Preservation: Procedure over Postcard

Perhaps the Redpath Mansion “victory” set the ball rolling, but heritage preservation grabbed a media spotlight in Montreal this week.

On Tuesday, I met with Héritage Montréal’s Dinu Bumbaru and asked him to highlight some of most successful examples of Heritage preservation in Montreal. His answer was rather surprising in that it didn’t include a single building nor historic monument.

For one thing, Bumbaru finds that an increasing number of ordinary property-owners are investing in upkeeping and repairing the architectural details like cornices and balconies that make Montreal’s neighbourhoods so distinct.

Another great victory, he said, was the designation of Mount Royal as a protected area, recognizing both the greenspace and the social investment that went into the parks, cemetery and other institutions on the mountain slopes.

Finally, he mentioned a number of relatively new developments that help connect everyday Montrealers’ experience to heritage sites: McGill college street which provides a visual connection between the bustle of  Sainte-Catherine and the Mountain and Place Riopelle for repairing the connection between downtown and Old Montreal.

“Not every victory can be a nice postcard in the end,” says Bumbaru. Some of the most important wins are procedural.

He emphasizes the importance drafting and enforcing clear, coherent and fair rules for development. Bumbaru may disagree with Amos Sochaczevski over the future of the Redpath mansion site, but it remains an injustice that the owner worked diligently with the city for two years before having his project scrapped in the final stages.

Plateau holds negligent owner accountable

One piece of heritage-related news this week was indeed procedural: The Plateau borough obtained a court injunction forcing a property-owner to restore a borded-up store-front on Boul Saint-Laurent, whose state of disrepair had become dangerous to pedestrians.

Last year Projet Montréal criticized the City for paying $2.1 million to expropriate two neglected buildings in Old Montreal which is currently valued at less than $1 million. This is the first time in Montreal that the law has been used to hold a property owner accountable for restoring a historic building.

La Presse contacted one of the owners in Toronto, who wondered whether the century old building, located on the corner of Saint-Laurent and Ave des Pins, could have any market value whatsoever. Nothing could make it more clear that the owner – who inherited the property – has little connection to nor investment in this place near the heart of Montreal.

The City of Montreal may issue fines of up to $10,000 to negligent property owners (provincial legislation; municipal legislation, see for example article 26) but it seems that in the case of both the Redpath mansion and the building on the Main, the fines were not a significant incentive.

Photo of Redpath mansion by Vincenzo D’Alto, The Gazette.

One comment

  1. Just a side note with regards to the Old Montreal properties acquired by the City:  municipal valuation and market value are two VERY different things.  The city likely paid an appropriate sum to the owners given the market conditions in the area. 

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