It’s a small piece of land at the center of a contentious dispute. Demonstrators circling the Golden Square Mile’s Notman Gardens call it a “hidden gem”—one that they are trying desperately to preserve as condo developers are vying for the property.

The gardens, more of a small forest now, were originally part of the Notman House’s property.

Built in the 1840’s, the house is the only surviving residence of its era, and one of Quebec’s few examples of Greek Revival-type architecture.

The house itself was granted historic protection by the government in 1979, but no such protection was offered for the attached gardens.

Numerous attempts to get either protection or a heritage designation from Quebec have proved fruitless.

Defenders of the property say that the trees are centuries old, and represent a rich history native to the city.

“It’s a historic place,” said Tony Antakly, a member of the citizen movement aiming to preserve the gardens. “It has the mark of the people who built this city: the Notmans, the Molsons, the Drummonds—this is part of the history of Montreal.”

However, the developer who owns the land does not want to sell. And though the condo developer hasn’t been granted building permits to begin any work, the condo project is estimated to cost upwards of 11 to 15 million dollars.

“There’s no intention on the park of the promoters to part with the lands. We’re hoping that having the citizens come together to raise awareness to really bring the importance of this space,” said executive committee member Manon Gauthier.

The land itself, just over 1000 square metres, was valued at $1.7 million in the last municipal evaluation. Citizen groups have expressed interest in raising the money so they could purchase the space independently. 

The condo construction will occupy almost the entire space now occupied by the gardens. Despite promises by the developer to uproot some of the trees and transplant them along the perimeter of the condo building, activists don’t believe this will be possible.

The city’s opposition believes that Montreal should step in and try to salvage the space. Project Montreal councilor Alex Norris said that the one remaining option would be to put a reserve on the land, declare it a park, compensate the owner, and preserve it.

Defenders of the garden believe it would make an ideal green space.

CTV tried to reach the owner of the land, but received no response.