The Canada Malting site along the Lachine Canal in St. Henri has been abandoned for more than 40 years.

Developers want condos; the community wants to take it back. All the while, the site is stagnant and slowly falling to ruin.

Since its abandonment, the site is blanketed by graffiti – some consider it too dangerous to enter, and its presence has been the topic of many heated debates.

“It’s been difficult—ultimately there’s a lot of elements involved in this project that have to be taken into consideration,” explained Noam Schnitzer of Renwick Development.

One of those elements is the consideration of how to develop the site while maintaining both its historical significance, and the needs of its surrounding community.

Schnitzer is pushing for the development of more parks, artistic spaces, and social housing.

“It is a community project : this is a social impact development, pure and simple,” he said. “The prevision of the 175 family condos should have been seen only as the facilitator in all of this, in our bid to show a private development group can address social requirements in a sustainable manner.”

The borough has told the developer it will examine the proposal.

Of the 240 units, 64 would be set aside exclusively for low-cost housing – an initiative included within the project’s $45 million price tag.

A Nous la Malting – or ‘take back the Malting – is a community group in St. Henri that’s been crusading for the silo’s redevelopment through a public project.

In a statement, the borough said it supports a preliminary project presented by A Nous la Malting – but the remaining question is how to fund it.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to require public funds, so we’re really hoping that the city, the province, and the federal government will chip in the funds for the project, and we can do our own fundraising for the project,” said Shannon Franssen of Solidarite St. Henri, a community group campaigning to increase quality of live for residents of the borough.

One artist mentioned that the restoration of the silos will add to its historical and artistic value.

“It’s not about money – it’s about sharing a historical piece and keeping an art value to it,” they explained.