Big changes in store for the lower Main

La Presse has discovered that negotiations are underway to transform the west block of St. Laurent, from the Monument National to Ste. Catherine St., into a “pôle vert,” a mixed-use, green-themed project with office space for architecture, video production and design firms, shops selling fair-trade, organic and locally-sourced products as well as cafés and bars.

Most of the development would consist of a new multi-storey building that would incorporate St. Laurent’s existing façades and retail space. The plan also calls for the complete pedestrianization of Clark Street, which would be lined by new retail space.

This “pôle vert,” which is still in the preliminary stages of planning and would be completed sometime around 2015, is just one of several new projects, built within the context of the Quartier des spectacles, that could dramatically change the lower Main. First is the Red Light (now being billed, apparently, as the forgettable “2-22 Sainte-Catherine Est”), which will soon rise at the southeast corner of St. Laurent and Ste. Catherine, containing, among other things, a branch of the independently-owned Olivieri bookstore.

Nearby, the SAT is set for a $2 million makeover, including the addition of six new workshops and three new studios. Part of the building’s roof with be transformed into an exhibition space called the “Satosphere” while the rest of it will be converted into a rooftop garden. The SAT’s façade will also be reglad with granite.

Just behind the Main, at the corner of Clark and Ste. Catherine, a new public square will soon replace a vacant lot. Across the street, the Maison du développement durable will be built to house a number of different environmental organizations.

Finally, as we mentioned on Sunday, the Saint-Laurent metro entrance will be capped by a new retail and office complex containing space for cultural organizations such as LADMMI, Montreal’s school of contemporary dance.

That’s a lot of activity for just a few blocks — the lower Main hasn’t had this much going on for decades. This latest redevelopment effort seems to be a more refined version of one that was proposed in 2002, with less of an emphasis on attracting tourists and more on providing new, subsidized space to cultural, environmental and community organizations.

That said, I’m worried about the future of some of the Main’s cultural and commercial landmarks, like the Montreal Pool Room, Café Cleopatra and the Épicerie d’Importations Main. They’ve been around for decades and they serve as a reminder of St. Laurent’s past, both as a seedy red light district and an immigrant neighbourhood. (Importations Main was the first Middle Eastern grocery store in Canada when it opened in 1903.) Will they have a place on the renovated lower Main?


  1. I was talking a while ago with the barkeep at the Panhellenion Bar (pictured above) and he was saying that:

    1) they all have to vacate by the end of March

    2) the Montreal Pool Room will not be a part of the project (they’re owned by another guy and he want to keep it open)

    3) Cafe Cleopatra (which just had an awesome burlesque show upstairs), isn’t on the block either.

    If all this is true, it could make for a pretty nice revitalisation.

  2. Some also argue that Frites Dorées has the best poutine in town. It is quite good. Amazing interior, too. They should keep it.

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