Heritage activists fight to save the lower Main
MONTREAL - Heritage activists are appealing to the city and the Quebec government to preserve a row of 19th century buildings on the lower Main. Boarded up since they were expropriated for the Quarter du Spectacles, the buildings are set to be demolished.
"The Main is an iconic figure of Montreal despite all its conditions, the ups and downs and so on, but it's a great place," said Dinu Bumbaru, the policy director for Heritage Montreal.
Despite being one of Montreal's most beloved streets, the row of buildings between Rene-Levesque Blvd. and Ste. Catherine St. is falling apart and the city has sent a demolition order to the owner.
Heritage Montreal says that's a problem, arguing that there's no clear plan for what will become of the historic facades.
"They're playing a game which is very dangerous because they're sending a message that yes you can demolish in Montreal and leave a vacant lot for ages," said Bumbaru. "As if we don't have enough of those."
While there may be opposition, the city says the demolition is necessary because of safety concerns.
"The Montreal fire department sent the borough a warning about the dangers of the buildings," said Marc Labelle, the director of urban development for the Ville-Marie Borough.
While Bumbaru says that that's a valid concern, he believes that engineers could work to make the buildings structurally sound without the need to tear them down.
"The culture argument is being pushed aside by the issue of safety. There's many ways to provide safety," said Bumbaru.
According to Labelle, the cultural protection of the area is a priority. The stones from the facades will be carefully dismantled and "will be reintegrated into a future development project."
Despite the differing opinions, the demolition is slated to start next week, and with it, a piece of the city's wilder past will be lost.