Light rail plans may sacrifice New City Gas heritage building
As plans for a new light rail line are beginning to take shape, they are also creating concerns that some of the city's history might have to be sacrificed in the process.
The owner of the New City Gas building said he recently received a letter from the Quebec government advising him two reserves have been placed on his land.
Built in the 1850's, the New City Gas company is a unique building at 950 Ottawa St. in Griffintown.
Originally the place where coal was converted to gas to light Montreal streets and buildings, it's had many lives, and currently serves as a dance club with as many as 3,000 people inside on an average Saturday night.
Owned by Harvey Lev since 1963, he’s concerned about the building’s future after he learned about the two reserves on his land.
“For one third, it's for the possible purchase and construction for the new light rail line and for the other part of the property, it's really not clear to me why they're doing it,” he said.
Lev said it's not the first time his land and the historic buildings on it have been targeted for public projects. Plans to build a bus corridor through it were scrapped after public hearings and plenty of opposition from local residents.
“At that time, they were planning to run 1,100 busses a day down the street,” he said.
Now, it would appear the rail line is slated to be built there, despite, Lev said, that there is a passenger rail line 30 metres away.
“It's exactly the same route as what the bus route was,” he said.
Too much of historic Griffintown has already been lost, said Heritage Montreal’s police director Dinu Bumbaru, adding that the New City Gas building has historic significance.
“The genesis of Hydro Quebec goes back there, so it's really important at the national level. It's not just a nice old building,” he said.
They also worry the rail line could impact another historic building, the Rodier at 932 Notre-Dame St.
“It has a lot of potential for a creative re-use, more than just running a railway through it,” said Bumbaru.
Southwest Borough Mayor Benoit Dorais and his team say they don't know exactly what will be impacted yet by the light rail train, but they have been in touch with the central city and province, and expressed some concerns.
Lev said he's in favour of public transit, but not at any cost.
“I spent my whole life in this neighbourhood and there's almost nothing left,” he said.