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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Second-hand happiness in a tiny, tiny park

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I doubt many people think of the Parc du Bonheur d’occasion as a park. A small plaza, sure, or maybe a glorified bus stop, but not a park. Sure enough, though, this small triangle of greenery, at the corner of Rose de Lima and Notre Dame streets in St. Henri, is an officially designated park, and one named after a particularly important work of Canadian literature to boot.

In today’s Gazette, I take a look at this park and ask city officials why it even exists. Turns out that the folks in City Hall, as helpful as they are, don’t know a whole lot more than the average Montrealer. Dominic Duford, one of the city’s conseilliers d’aménagement, told me that it was named on November 30, 1994 as part of a larger project that saw many small green spaces in the Southwest borough named in honour of the district’s working-class heritage. He couldn’t tell me why the space for the park, which measures just 300 square metres, exists in the first place, though he speculated that a fire likely destroyed whatever building previously stood on the site.

These micro-parks exist throughout Montreal’s poorer neighbourhoods, a legacy of fires in the 1970s that left holes, gaping like missing teeth, in their streetscapes. In the east end, Ville-Marie’s borough council recently announced a plan to develop some of the small parks in Centre-Sud, many of which are used mainly by drug addicts and prostitutes, but the Southwest has no such plan, and the tiny parks in St. Henri will remain.

You can read my full article on Urbanphoto or on the Gazette’s website. I got lucky and found a nice quote to end the piece, courtesy of an eloquent and talkative young anglophone couple who live kitty corner to the park:

Elizabeth Zeeun and Brian Dunn, a young couple who live half a block away from the park, see its appeal.

“It kind of encapsulates the socio-

economic layers of the neighbourhood. You have this crossroads between the McGill kids just passing through, the guy who parks his Porsche in front while he gets money from the bank next door, the old guys just barely struggling home from Chez Pierre (a nearby bar) and the skeezy prostitute who hangs out there at night. It’s sort of this small neutral space that everyone ignores,” Dunn said.

“When we first moved in, it was just weeds. After a while, it was redone by some craftsmen. In fact, there was this woman who was there hand-laying the stone path all day long, cutting each stone herself,” Zeeun added.

Dunn interjected: “I don’t know if it’s second-hand happiness or not, but she was investing as much time and energy in it as she would have for some rich person’s yard in Westmount.”

Photo by Allen McInnis of the Gazette


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