No place for trees in the Quartier des spectacles

The latest evictees in Montreal’s new Quartier des Spectacles aren’t sex workers, historic hot dog joints or even the homeless.  The latest residents forcibly removed by the city do have a history in the area, though. Each of them, in fact, has been living there for 45 years and their roots do run deep.  The newest evictees in this plan touted in the media as very green are the 67 crabapple trees chopped down by workers of the Martel Company last week.


eviction procedures (photo La Presse)

Clément Demers, Director General of the société Quartier international, the group responsible for the Quartier des Spectacles project, told La Presse that the trees, formerly found in Place Albert-Duquesne behind Place des Arts, aren’t part of the plan for the new Place de l’adresse symphonique which will occupy the space.  In fact, they would interfere with plans to excavate the space.  The trees were deemed too old to be transplanted.

The Quartier, which will be bordered by Sherbrooke, Rene-Levesque, City Councillors and Berri streets, has caused some controversy since being launched in the wake of the Montreal Summit in 2002.  Overall, the project uses three main things to deflect criticism: that it will offer mixed-income dwelling, that it will be a haven for arts and culture and that it will be green.

The lower part of St-Laurent boulevard is Montreal’s historic Red Light District and also home to several landmarks such as the Montreal Pool Room restaurant, not to mention many people with lower incomes.  Having already bought up several buildings, Angus Development is trying to buy up the rest of the block and adjacent Clark Street and turn it into a commercial complex with pedestrian walkways.

The trees in their prime, May 2008 (photo by Kate McDonnell)

They promise no chain stores and green and fair-trade businesses on the bottom floors but offices are supposed to occupy the upper levels.  This has some concerned that it will diminish the residential character of the neighborhood and force many people to find a new place to live.  Evictions have already begun.

While the area is home to several artistic venues, some are raising concerns that rents will be far too high for working artists to set up shop.  Other artists trying to add to the proposed creative expression that is supposed to inhabit the area had their Quartier de Contre-Spectacle speakers’ corner busted by the cops in 2003.

As for being a green project, one may wonder just how green it will be, given that one of the first acts developers took was to cut down 67 trees.

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