Families living in a building in Griffintown watched in shock this weekend as a sinkhole made such quick work of their homes, they had to be demolished.

Now they’re concerned about the future.

Firefighters began the demolition of the Ste. Anne Coop at 181 - 191 Mountain St., between Wellington and Ottawa Sts. at 10 p.m. Sunday. It was over within two hours: Five of the nine units were destroyed.

Co-op members are now being told the city holds them responsible and the co-op's insurance won't cover them for the sinkhole.

“It's like we're being blamed for everything and we didn’t do anything, so it's – I'm in shock. I'm shocked,” said co-op president Guylaine Mayer.

Residents had to evacuate the premises on Saturday and weren't allowed back in to the building even for a moment.

Everything they owned was left behind.

Jocelyn Marcotte and her sisters have called the building home for 40 years - until they were forced out Saturday.

"It was like a shock to us and that's it. We had to leave in quite a hurry, so you grab what you can, like clothes or just leave," she said.

"Furniture you can replace, but I'm sorry - there are things that you can't," she added through tears.

The building dated to the 19th century.

The ground became unstable last month. A sewage pipe broke and water rushed into the condo pit. The sidewalk collapsed, then a sinkhole opened up April 1, when the closest co-op units were evacuated.

A crack on the wall widened over the following week and on Saturday a sinkhole opened up, forcing the emergency evacuation of the entire co-op.

Officials have not yet figured out why the hole developed, but a construction company has been excavating a large hole next door where condominiums are being developed by Brickfields.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said the city will determine exactly who is liable.

"I'm going to wait for the report but we have to do something about it. It's about people. Was there negligence? Was there a problem with what happened? I saw that last night like you and it was very sad," said Coderre.

One woman who lived right next to the new Brickfields project said condo developer Maitre Carré should have been more careful.


“If there's a house there, shouldn't you take precautions to make sure that this house doesn't fall on you?” said co-op resident Jocelyne Marcotte.

In a statement the developer Maitre Carré said:

“Maitre Carré, which is responsible for the neighbouring Brickfields project, is a responsible company that, since its founding, has done its utmost to conserve and protect heritage sites. We take this situation very seriously and are distressed by this unfortunate event."


The company went to great lengths in December to carefully remove an adjacent heritage house with plans to integrate it into the new condo building.

For some, including Nicole Bagnato, the loss is great. She was told she could not go back in to retrieve her husband's urn.

After the building was demolished crews did go through the rubble, and were able to retrieve the container and the ashes therein.

“That's the only thing I wanted back. The rest we could buy,” she said.

The Red Cross is assisting people by putting them up in a hotel for two nights. The Southwest borough is lending a hand as well.

"This strip of row houses is one of the last that remains to Griffintown. I would've expected more of an effort to go in to making sure it stayed the way it was," said resident Shawn Amyot.

Borough Mayor Benoit Dorais said they don't know exactly what caused the sinkhole but in order to secure the area, demolition was the only option.

"The building is actually dangerous and possibility of danger is why the building was evacuated," he said.

A silver lining came Monday, when engineer Yvonick Houde, hired by the co-op, said the remaining units are safe.

“They're going to finish the demolition we're going to have a look and maybe they're going to be able to go back inside,” Houde said.

More could have been done to prevent the loss of yet another heritage building, said Dinu Bumbaru of Heritage Montreal.

"There's a disconnect between the discourse on heritage and the action on heritage," he said.