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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Sad End in Sight for the Lower Main

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This week the the Lower Main redevelopment saga is drawing to a sad and quiet close: on December 21st, the Ville-Marie borough ordered the demolition  of 1190 to 1220 boulevard Saint-Laurent. The five buildings, which were constructed between 1889 and 1900, have been left vacant since the Société de Développement Angus purchased them in 2009.

Given that the owner has not maintained the properties or even heated them during the winter, it’s no surprise that the centennial buildings have become so dilapidated that they present a risk to public safety and fire hazard. The Monument National has also complained of humidity and leaks creeping in since its neighbouring building was left in a state of abandon.


Quebec’s Ministry of Culture had to approve the demolition of the buildings, which are in the protection area surrounding the Monument National. Bizarrely, the building which recently housed Épicerie Importations Main – the one which is actually threatening the foundations of the Monument National – will escape demolition. The Ministry has also stated that the facades of 1190-1212 must be conserved – which means numbering the building stones and packing them away so that they can be puzzled back together at some undefined future time. (We have collected photos and history of all the buildings in question in this post)

After public consultations in 2009, the OCPM report highlighted that the SDA’s original plan to integrate the facades of centennial buildings into the office tower failed to do justice to a site of “exceptional heritage value.” The report spoke of preserving the buildings’ original volume as well as function.

But developers are all too aware that, when it comes to heritage preservation time – and entropy – are on their side (and I’m sure City officials are no stranger to the principle either). Thanks to a few seasons of negligence, we are now forced not only to settle for façadism, but we are faced with the prospect of a facade in a box and an empty lot where there were businesses just a few years ago.

A sad and unjust conclusion after all the energy that was poured into saving the historic Main…

Whose fault is it anyways?

I find it interesting to note that, two years after the Quadrilatère Saint-Laurent was put on ice, the Gazette is saying that the OCPM report panned the development while La Presse maintains that Café Cleopatra sank the project when they contested the expropriation. I had been under the impression that the company simply didn’t have the financial resources to follow through with their plan. The news cycle turns on, and finger-pointing becomes fact…



  1. Le Café Cléopatre est bel et bien responsable de l’échec de ce projet: le locataire potentiel, Hydro Québec, n’ayant eu d’autre choix que de renouveler ses baux (notamment à la Place Dupuis).

    Cette histoire est hélas un coup dur pour les partisans des entreprises d’économie sociales jouant le jeu du capitalisme.  La SDAngus se retrouve le bec dans l’eau, en grandes difficultés financières, et n’aura probablement d’autres choix que de se retirer et vendre les terrains (ceux de cet ilot mais également au métro Saint-Laurent) au ‘vrai’ privé, qui sera encore plus réfractaire à préserver le cadre bâtit.

  2. Mortgagors aren’t (usually) fools…..
    The City of Montreal’s politicians, on the other hand ….. Well…
    Fancy drawings of new buildings are so seductive ….

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