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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Photo du Jour : The Last Days of the Seville

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Seville's last days

It was an ugly day, but I has a sudden urgent need to snap a picture of the abandoned Seville Theatre on Ste-Catherine and Chomedy.

Despite attempts to preserve the facade of the 1928 theatre, the Gazette reported that 3 separate studies have found it too decrepit to be incoprorated into a new student housing project that is slotted for this block.

The more time I spend in this neigbhourhood, the more I realize how much of it is abandoned, including entire apartment blocks above Ste-Catherine, and lovely old greystones below. Between the Chidren’s Hospital, Alexis Nihon, Westmount Square, the Forum and Concordia, there has got to be a demand for housing in this area. I can’t figure out why so much beautiful, and surely valuable property is being left to deteriorate in an otherwise bustling part of downtown.

What happened?



  1. Maybe Atwater isn’t bustling enough to justify the considerable expense of repairing crumbling old facades.

  2. I can’t imagine why greystone townhomes are not being bought up and used as homes again. Every city that is as historic as Montreal has, in the past 10-15 years, seen a renaissance of this kind of housing stock. Montreal has gorgeous townhouses in spades. It is the ultimate in chic urban living in places like NY, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston…. why not Montreal?? Let’s hope it catches on.

  3. I went to a conference on Square Cabot recently and they were saying that there is a great turnover of population in that area. So I think that if you are just living there by constraint and not by choice you wont enjoy the neighborhood as much. And let’s face it, the big towers and more than ugly in that area.

  4. Well, I don’t think big towers don’t have anything to do with it. Any NYC neighborhood shares towers and townhouses.

  5. Businesses in this part of town tend to have high turnover, it’s true, but that’s because many of them are dependent on students. In any case, it’s really just the Seville block that is in terrible shape. Things are fine just east of it — don’t forget that there is a large number of grocery stores and local shops around there, which is a sign of a healthy neighbourhood.

  6. This is just a theory, but I am curious to see if anyone else thinks that this might have some validity: Could some neighbourhoods that are traditionally english be having problems because that population is in decline? Griffintown and Point st-charles spring to mind also. This is not saying that all english neighbourhoods are in decline, but if the total english population is shrinking, perhaps they need less neighbourhoods.

  7. The Point is hardly an “English” neighbourhood, and Griffintown has been fighting a war of attrition against the city since it was deemed undesirable by Drapeau. But hey, it could be worse – many areas like Goose Village, Viger Square, et cetera have been destroyed in the name of progress at one point or another. The problem with the Seville & Cabot Square area is more complex, though the departure of the old Forum played no small part in the area’s decline. It’s not really about “English” or “French” or even neglect, it’s about the marginalisation of existing neighbourhoods as usage patterns shift. There’s lots of areas in Montreal that used to be hubs of activity but just aren’t any more for a variety of reasons, and the further they go into disuse, the further they are neglected, and the harder it is to revive them. Look what happened to Saint-Henri after the canal shut down – it’s only starting to pick back up now – in a totally different context of usage.

  8. Well i would never say that it was an English / French thing, just that decline of the english community may have been a contributing factor. I do think that it well recognized was a contributing factor in Griffintown at least, as explained to me at length by a local historian on tour of that neighbourhood.

    Originally from from Vancouver, I have seen the cycle of decline and gentrification play out at a frightening pace in quite a few neighbourhoods. I think this is an inevitable fact in the life cycle of city neighbourhoods. The process seems to happen much more slowly in montreal, perhaps because it is a more established city, perhaps because its growth is much slower than in Vancouver, perhaps because there is a certain resistance to gentrification.

    I guess what is shocking to be about the blocks leadinging up to atwater metro is not that the neighbourhood is in decline, or even how far in decline we have let it slip, but the speed of that decline. I have only lived in montreal for 5 years, but I don’t remember that neighbourhood being that far gone when I arrived here.

  9. The problem lies in branding. After the Canadiens left the strong emotional bond forged between the citizenry and that particular area was lost, but who remained living there? I love the area, but I feel it conceptually divides itself several times over. Moreover, the principle agent of social traffic – the Forum – which had guaranteed an inter-mixing of the strata of Montreal society before, was now a do-it-yourself entertainment complex. There are few other spaces nearby that induce such a mix, and thus the whole area becomes socially divided.

    It also doesn’t fit because (and this is made far worse by the Seville Block) it is unnaturally a 9-5 place. Cabot Square seems unnecessarily exclusive and the Metro entrance in the park needs a complete overhaul; the Forum and Place-Alexis Nihon are insulated, as is Dawson – ergo, traffic has little reason to mix above ground.

    What will save the whole area is a re-branding, a cohesive idea that joins the disparate elements. Where’s the heritage angle; think of the multitude of public and cultural spaces to which Cabot Square could serve as focal point. Think of the communities that are linked here; Westmount, Concordia Ghetto, New Chinatown, Little Burgundy, Shaunessy Village etc. The area around Cabot Square needs to be re-conceptualized to reflect the people who live there, and many of the public spaces present are far from inviting.

    The best thing for the Seville Block is affordable student housing. Whatever form it takes, the injection of such a high concentration of students into the area will certainly have an effect, the question is, is it a one-way street? Will this facility provide cultural space, such as a theatre or auditorium? Will it be ‘human-scale’ or impersonal, corporate? A massive student housing complex, oriented towards being open and as a source of community identity may do wonders for the area.

  10. I used to live very close to this building.. the last night I lived around there, my friends and I easily broke in and had a bonfire. We burned up a statue from my room that was made of branches and junk I found on the streets. It was a memorable night and a fitting way to leave town.

    Why is this building considered a blight on the neighborhood? Why is it considered a failure? So Claridge Properties thinks they have a great idea for redevelopment.. But chances are it will be overpriced condos, terrible architecture, and will further isolate the neighborhood.. and THAT would be a failure.

    Obviously it would be ideal for the space to be used in a manner that would both compliment and unify the community… Until someone comes up with a plan that meets that criteria, I say let the people who call the people who call the neighborhood home use the space as they see fit.

  11. What came first, the homeless or the decrepitude?

    I’d say no one will build there (especially residential!) ’cause the area’s full of crazies and crackheads morning noon and night. The entrance to Atwater metro on the edge of the park constantly smells of piss and vomit, and is populated nearly 24/7 by people who are mostly harmless but who will sometimes scream obscenities at you if you ignore their requests for change…

    The park’s nice, and it would make a good focal point for the area, but it would probably need a constant police presence for a few years to make it work.

    Lord knows, the homeless have precious few places in the city to go, and outright ousting them may not be the right thing, but the fact remains, even if some nice homes sprung up there, there’s no way I’d buy one!

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