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Final farewell to the Seville Theatre

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Seville Theatre demolition

Demolition under way at the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Lambert-Closse.

After decades of neglect and indecision, the Seville Theatre’s days are now numbered. Last week demolition began on the western buildings of the Seville Theatre block. The West-End landmark was built in 1929 as a Vaudeville theatre, and it went through several incarnations before finally closing its doors in 1985. It has been sitting derelict ever since, slowly deteriorating until all that remained was its brick exterior.

Various proposals to redevelop the building while preserving the exterior fell through over the years. The façade is now too decrepit to be reused and the whole thing is coming down to make way for a 100 million dollar residential and commercial project, dubbed “Le Séville”. It will consist of one 21-storey tower and two 12-storey towers, housing 450 condos and retail on the street level.

Image of future project, created by developers Claridge Inc. and Prével.

So far, only the buildings on the corner of Lambert-Closse and Sainte-Catherine have been demolished. According to the Gazette, the actual theatre itself will be coming down sometime in mid August after the construction holiday, so there is still time to drop by to pay last respects.


  1. Ah well can’t complain too much, that whole area has been dead mostly due to that block being in limbo, hopefully with more people living in that area the rest of that stretch of ste catherine will improve as well.

  2. I’m sorry that it wasn’t saved. However it was too far gone to save it, and while it is hard to tell from an architect’s image, the new buildings don’t look too ugly.

    How much this can lively up the street area depends to a great deal on what retailers come in. I fear it may be the same cookie-cutter chains as a few blocks east or west of there.

  3. The new building is too tall. Why even bother having a general plan? Anything goes, apparently, when you wave a bit of cash around. The OCPM burps and then rubber stamps it. Democracy.

  4. I guess people don’t incorporate front gardens into their real estate development plans anymore…

  5. @Flo & Maria: I definitely agree that it’s too late to save the theatre and that this project is an improvement over an abandoned block. I’m just sad that this dossier was so bunged that it’s gotten to this point. The project underway isn’t bad, but I do wish that it included units of social housing. I’m afraid that this sort of condo development will primarily attract rich people looking for a pie-à-terre in Montréal, which won’t do much to liven up the area. Not to mention that fact that currently many people who qualify for public housing have to wait years before a unit opens up.

    @Neumontréal : In all fairness, the OCPM did force the developer to lop off a few stories, but yes, it is huge.

    @Isabel: This development is on Sainte-Catherine. Most of the buildings are built right up to the property line, so I would say that the project’s set-back is appropriate. There will also be businesses on the first floor.

  6. Funny that no one laments the York Theatre anymore…

    Who remembers the squarish art-déco theatre that used to sit where the new Concordia watchamacallit building is?

  7. In my opinion, 7-10 stories is the perfect density for a downtown project. Anything east of Atwater should be at least that height to achieve proper scale with wider sidewalks around Sainte-Catherine and would give a nice transition to the core from leafy Westmount to the West. 

    While I am not opposed to a subsidized housing requirement for any new residential project, the old Forum area is in desperate need of some gentrification. Despite a slight dropoff, there is still a large demand from young urban professionals who would inject some new life into the neighbourhood. 

    Sad that the old theatre could not have been saved and somehow integrated into the new project. 20 years of inept planning.

  8. How on earth is 21 floors too tall??? Most buildings in the area are taller than that! This is downtown Montreal not Le Gardeur.

  9. And why on earth would they put gardens in front of a project downtown? This isn’t suburbia.

  10. @MODE :

    7 to 10 stories is the ideal density for a downtown project ? Have you ever heard of “sprawl” ?

    Just imagine if whole downtown Montreal would have been built 7 to 10 stories high… I mean, there is a lack of logic somewhere.

    7 to 10 stories AROUND downtown and I agree with you. But you can’t build a downtown 7 to 10 stories high in a city like Montreal. There is just not enough land for that.

    People complain that we are destroying forests, marsh and other bio important area yet people don’t want tall buildings. If we can’t build horizontally, then let’s build vertically so we may save the lasts virgin areas of Montreal.

  11. You can have a pretty dense community with 7-10 stories.  There is no need to build sky scrapers to achieve that objective.  A better urban fabric is formed with medium heights.
    Most of the buildings on St. Catherine street are not particularly tall.  It is mostly a commercial street.  The tall (by montreal standards) buildings are located on Rene Leveque and Mcgill College.   

  12. I applaud this projet wholeheartedly. “Social housing” is a term bandied about far too much these days. First of all, social housing itself has no place within the downtown core of a city due to the general expense of living within this area. These low-income housing projects are more suited to either the suburbs or around the periphery of the downtown core.

    As for height; if anything the building itself should have been made higher as the zoning in that area has always allowed for buildings of at least 25 floors. Just look at the nearby appartment blocks and Westmount Square for example. Building more units there could have also decreased the overall cost of the project which would have brought prices down as well…and maybe included some of this “social housing” some like to talk so much about. To conclude, it is time people start thinking about developing Montreal PROPERLY instead of listening to endless community groups who all have alternating opinions about one thing or another. Public consultation has gone too far in this city and it has seriously begun to negatively effect growth in several areas.

  13. Well, anything to make this part of town come back to life would be an improvement. And no, 25 story skyscrapers do not make downtown more “liveable” but sure do boost the construction union members wallets, developers profits and the city’s tax revenues. (for the rest of us, not so much benefit).

    Yes to gardens in front, and art too!

    Keep st-catherine a walkable, liveable vibrant street.

  14. from wikipedia’s page on NIMBYism:

    ” B.A.N.A.N.A.

    BANANA is an acronym for Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything (or Anyone). The term is most often used to criticize the ongoing opposition of certain Advocacy groups to land development.[8] The apparent opposition of some activists to every instance of proposed development suggests that they seek a complete absence of new growth. The term is commonly used within the context of planning in the United Kingdom. The Sunderland City Council lists the term on their online dictionary of jargon.”

    I dunno, it just made me think of you guys… ..

  15. While it is sad to see the remains of the old theater
    go, letting the block continue as it was was an even worse option. The sheer number of units in the new development will definitly give increase traffic and residents in this area, and hopefully there will be enough induced demand to draw buisnesses into the surrounding vacant shops.

    The one thing that I found a little sad as I walked by was the remains of some of the exceptional stonework that was used in some of those buildings. There was a random signature block (if that is what they are called) lying on the edge of the block, (but inside the fence) and I am sad that those aspects of construction, and the sites history will be lost, but the revitalization and renewal of this neighbourhood is a positive outcome to this 25 year saga.

  16. @CIRRUS, actually if you walk around downtown and start counting, it is quite starling how many 3-5 story building there are East of Atwater, especially between DeMaisonneuve and Sherbrooke, even in the core East of Guy.

    My comment about 7-10 stories for residential urban neighbourhoods is based on observation of very livable cities with great social fabric like Stockholm, Vienna, Helsinki, Edinburgh, and parts of Paris & London. As another poster pointed out, 7-10 stories can give you high density numbers: just look at the figures for Boston’s North End!

    BTW, this does not mean I am against tall buildings: in fact I am one of those people who believe that Mount Royal park should be framed by high-rise buildings like Central Park (all about contrast and scale). I was talking about the area around the old Forum.

    As for sprawl, yes I have heard of it, thank you very much. Your assertion that there is not enough land on the island of Montreal is absurd – and I am not talking about ecological areas, but the potential for infill projects near Downtown. Go stand in the sea of parking lots near the Lowney project in Griffentown and tell me there isn’t enough room for brownfield expansion?!? (Not to mention Turcot yards and all the other abandoned industrial lots along the Lachine Canal). Montreal is severely underdeveloped around the downtown: land scarcity is hardly an issue here.

    What makes me sad is all this potential for infill goes unused while we subsidize developments like Quartier DIX30 on valuable arrible land off-island. Makes no sense.

  17. @Cirrus wrote “Just imagine if whole downtown Montreal would have been built 7 to 10 stories high… I mean, there is a lack of logic somewhere”

    Actually, if the whole downtown were built to a UNIFORM 7-10 stories, the density would likely be the same if not higher than it is currently.

    Forget empty lots, our downtown is characterized by 20 story concrete towers next to 3 story brick walk-ups, example Stanley or Drummond or anywhere along Sherbrooke Street west of McGill University. 

    Now THAT is a lack of logic. 

  18. LOL… it kills me when people refer to a 12 storey building as a tower. It’s even more laughable when journalists in Montreal and Quebec do so. 12 floors = a building.

    Also, the comment about front gardens is equally hilarious. This is an urban setting not Pointe-Claire. There have been many suburban-like designs in the downtown core that are just WRONG. For examples, condos on lower de la Montagne and Les Terraces Windsor is atrociously suburban…er and cheap-looking.

    This proposal -should it materialize as the rendering – is really great looking. It is progressive, forward-looking in terms of aesthetic, and does not represent some bleeding heart, unimaginative, knock-off piece of post-modern design. (eg: Le Hotel St Martin which was designed to match, mimic, right down to the colour, the old Mount Royal Hotel – not how you build an exciting urban fabric. The consensus of new buildings having to ‘fit’ needs to seriously examined). Le Seville is contemporary, will be of quality, and as a mixed-use development is much-needed here.

  19. I don’t have a huge problem with the current proposal. It would be nice if some Montreal developers would be able to think in a bit more advanced way, but if that were the case, the theatre wouldn’t have been left to rot in the first place.

    That is what is so annoying about Montreal. It has this terrible mix of corruption, anglo-canadian lack of imagination and fear of change and a stifling bureaucracy. Where other American cities take their architectural treasures, modernize them and exploit their heritage value, here we just wait and let them lie fallow long enough so another boring retail box can be put up. It’s what they did with Ben’s (instead of someone buying it outright, revitalizing it and turning it into a tourist hotspot à la the Carnegie Deli in Times Square). It’s what they are currently doing with the restaurant in the Bay. Bring in a top name chef, fix it all up and that place could be the new hipster night spot. But no, too much bureaucratic bullshit, mafia and union-controlled labour and no-imagination developers too ever try anything “risky” like that. What makes cities great are their heritage and we are just watching it crumble.

  20. Wow, Walkerp, aren’t you a bundle of positivity?

    I quite agree that there have been some dreadful decisions and tons of stuff destroyed that we would nowadays much prefer to the monstrosities that took their place. But I grew up in Vancouver where there is, compared to Montréal, so little heritage left that I find it quite amusing to hear someone complain that Montréal is 1) bad at keeping and highlighting its heritage, and 2) lacking in hipster night spots.

  21. HMMM… I don’t get the comment on anglo-canadian unimaginative development. Let’s see: PVM, CIBC tower, Sun Life Building, Place Victoria CIL House, Windsor Station, Windsor Hotel, Ritz-Carlton, Westmount Square, (I could go on all day) were brought to us by English Montreal. No need to get political, I certainly don’t want to but…. let’s also give credit where credit is due.

  22. I like the project as rendered. Unfortunately, experience shows that there is quite a lot of rendering and not a whole lot of building in this city. Let’s see how this plays out.


    You advocate the simple numerical logic that density fights sprawl. I argue that good streets and neighbourhoods fight sprawl more effectively. If you pack a block with a bunch of crap high rises that nobody wants to live in, the net effect is people fleeing elsewhere (usually, to the suburbs).

    For a startling example of how making some streets denser might actually *contribute* to sprawl, see this:

    My gut is telling me that residents of the area, after seeing their neighbourhood “improved” like that probably got their stuff and moved away in a potato field somewhere.

    Fortunately, the proposed project looks far better that those crass high rises on Drummond etc… At least it interacts with pedestrians at ground level and the higher parts of building are set back to allow a bit more sunshine on the street and a lesser “wind tunnel” effect.


  23. Forget empty lots, our downtown is characterized by 20 story concrete towers next to 3 story brick walk-ups, example Stanley or Drummond or anywhere along Sherbrooke Street west of McGill University.

    Ah, Sherbrooke St west of McGill is a great mix of styles and the materials are not concrete unless you are referring to the supporting structures. And most of the street is intact – thankfully. Mid-Century glass curtain wall – like Le Cartier – are not ugly, nor that out of place. Though most people have no comprehension of it and cannot appreciate the Port Royale, it too is the original and has stood the test of time. Sure, it’s a bit tall for the spot, but it adds interest.( Everything else that came after it was a cheap knock off). Believe me, I am not fan of the bland Lepine towers on de Maisonneuve. Glass curtain walled-buildings would have been a more progressive, modern approach. To attempt to recreate some past aesthetic and making everything fit and match is not what a grown-up, mature city does. Everything that is the same height and of the same look, colour? Really?

    btw.. Where the ugly concrete towers were built is around Guy in the Shaughnessy Village. Awful.

  24. @marc

    “To attempt to recreate some past aesthetic and making everything fit and match is not what a grown-up, mature city does. Everything that is the same height and of the same look, colour? Really.”

    I’d argue Montreal is not a mature city. It is under-built and under developed. Any street in the core contains an odd juxtaposition of towers and older pre-Drapeau era buildings of no historical significance  I was not advocating the adoption of some bland Tremblant-esque theme park, but was merely pointing out that the core remains underdeveloped. 

    As for Port Royal, um, I lived next to it at one time, so no I neither appreciate nor comprehend it. It may get architectural students all hot and bothered, but it is an eyesore, IMHO. I was they’d clad it in reflective glass so it disappears in the reflection of the Mountain and the surrounding buildings.  

    The 1200/Lepine towers grow on you after a while. To each his own I suppose.

  25. As an American, who studied in Montreal thirty years ago, i got a chance to know the city. I’ve shared in the joy and pain. I watched her grow and change through the years. Some of those changes have not been neccessarily been for the better. I agree with some of the respondents to this blog that given the city’s stature as a mature city that oozes sophistication, the urban planners, buikding department, developers, etc. appear not to make big plans as Daniel Burnham.

    I must admit coming from and living in a city like Chicago is a jewel when it comes to urban design and architecture but my heart will always belong to Montreal and with that I would only want the best for the city also.
    Where are the Phyliss Lamberts, Heritage Montreal, Peter Roses of today to stand up for city?

  26. “To attempt to recreate some past aesthetic and making everything fit and match is not what a grown-up, mature city does. Everything that is the same height and of the same look, colour? Really?”

    I live in Ottawa, and this is our unofficial mantra. I laugh when I hear about lack of vision and NIMBYism running rampant in Montreal – spending one week in Ottawa would have you running screaming back to the island (where you’d be glad to be home).
    Absolutely nothing gets done here, and in the rare case something is built, it is reduced in height and cheapened  (even right downtown) because hoards of NIMBY activists posing as ‘community association’ members screamed and moaned to city council about their property values, traffic on their downtown street, their right to an unobstructed view downtown, a lack of sunlight and their general quality of life.
    A 6-storey building, even close to downtown, will face hysterical opposition. The main argument against each? 
    “It doesn’t fit the character of the community”, and “it makes for a less walkable street”

    It is absolutely ridiculous. I look at Montreal with envy.

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