By Tahiat Mahboob

Some think of it as the Greek neighbourhood. Others see it as a place with affordable housing. But Montreal’s 107-year-old Parc-Extension or Park Ex is a multi-faceted community filled with rich historical and cultural detail. Nestled in the west end of the Villeray-St Michel-Park Extension borough, it is the focus of a new documentary, Return to Park Ex.

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Return to Park Ex
How to Spend the Perfect Day in Montreal's Parc-Extension Neighbourhood
Why Park-Ex, A Working Class Neighbourhood in Montreal, Is Such A Special Place

Here are five things the average person might not know about Park Ex.

Park Ex is a culturally diverse point of entry for newcomers

Known for its cultural diversity, Park Ex is the neighbourhood of choice for newcomers. Park Ex has the highest concentration of immigrants (61%) and visible minority groups (63%), among Montreal’s various neighbourhoods. In terms of newcomer population (14%), Park Ex ranks second among all Montreal neighbourhoods, after Côte-des-Neiges (18%).

SCENE FROM THE FILM: Inside a hideaway lounge frequented by the Greek community of Park Ex in Montreal.
Park Ex is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Canada

Two different analysis in the past five years have shown that Park Ex is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Montreal and Canada. A 2013 mapping of Canada’s richest and poorest neighbourhoods found that, of 1578 postal codes mapped by income, Park Ex came in at 1574 — one of the poorest. A 2016 joint study on working poverty in Montreal by Centraide of Greater Montreal and the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) found that the highest rates of working poor were found in Montreal’s Park Ex neighbourhood at 30.7 per cent.

Park Ex is bordered by a wall

A chain link fence stands hidden amidst a mile-long stretch of tall bushes along l’Acadie Boulevard. Erected in 1960, this fence physically separates Park Ex from the Town of Mont-Royal, one of Montreal’s most affluent neighbourhoods. For over the half a century, the fence has been a point of great contention — a physical symbol of segregation.

Park Ex is home to a monastery

Tucked away on the corner of Avenue Ball and Rue Birnam is a three story red brick building, the bottom third covered in a grey and maroon mosaic. From the exterior it looks any of the other residences on the tree-lined street, with one exception: the entrance. The ornate stained glass front door sports three crosses. A look up reveals two more on and in front of the second floor window. This apartment building houses the St. Anna Greek Orthodox Monastery.

Park Ex is home to many Montreal celebrities

While the neighbouring Mile End real estate comes with expensive price tags, homes in Park Ex are much more affordable, and have attracted artists, activists, documentary filmmakers and musicians in the past few years. Members of Arcade Fire, Stars, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the Dears all own homes here.