Griffintown co-op near condo construction site to be demolished

A Griffintown co-operative that was evacuated in a rush is so unstable that residents aren't allowed to retrieve their belongings.

Residents say problems with building started when construction began on condo project next door

Justine Marcotte has lived at 185 de la Montagne for 38 years and was evacuated over a week ago. (CBC)

A Griffintown housing co-operative that was evacuated in a rush is so unstable that residents aren't allowed to retrieve their belongings. 

Cooperative d'Habitation Ste-Anne, at 181 and 185 de la Montagne Street, has faced two evacuations in the last week — once due to a collapsed sidewalk, another time due to an unstable wall.

Experts have now determined that one of the buildings is at risk of collapsing due to instabilities with its walls and foundation.

"The situation is very complex. They looked at what needs to be done, and the solution, unfortunately, is to proceed with demolition," said Southwest borough Mayor Benoit Dorais told reporters in front of the co-op.

The building is set to be demolished Sunday night.

Southwest borough Mayor Benoit Dorais speaks with displaced residents of the Cooperative Ste-Anne Sunday afternoon. (CBC)

Dorais said residents of that building will not be able to retrieve their belongings for safety reasons.

One woman was not able to retrieve an urn containing her husband's ashes.

Started with condo project next door

"It all started with the excavation right beside us," said resident Justine Marcotte.

Marcotte has lived at 185 de la Montagne for 38 years, was one of the people who established Cooperative Ste-Anne and is now its treasurer.

She was evacuated on April 1.

"It's very hard emotionally. Now it's been over a week with the ups and downs. Nobody wants to take responsibility for it. We didn't do nothing wrong. We just happen to be beside the site," she said.

Marcotte and other residents of the Cooperative Ste-Anne said they only started having trouble with their building when construction began on a new condominium next door.

The Brickfields condo construction site is being developed by Maître Carré, whose project was praised by mayor Dorais for its plans to incorporate Keegan House — Griffintown's oldest house — into the design. 

Part of the Cooperative Ste-Anne can be seen on the left side of this picture of plans for the neighbouring Brickfields condominium project, which includes Keegan House (Maître Carré)

Though the developer has been praised for its attention to the tiny heritage home, co-op residents said their building should be afforded the same courtesy.

"This is heritage. These are the last houses of Griffintown, the old houses," Marcotte said.

She added that the construction seemed to be negligent. 

"They knew these houses were old houses, they're 100 years old. They should've taken many more precautions."

RAW: Keegan House on the move

7 years ago
Duration 0:34
Griffintown's Keegan House, built in 1825, is moving to a temporary location while a condo development goes up next door.

Could be homeless

Some of the evacuated residents found housing with relatives while 10 others have been taken in by the Red Cross until Monday.

If they tear it down, rebuild... all we want is our co-op back.- Justine Marcotte, longtime co-op resident

Once the the building is demolished, some residents may become homeless.

Marcotte called on the mayor and the city to support those displaced by the demolition.

"If they tear it down, rebuild. It can't cost that much, it's not that big of a building, " she said.

"All we want is our co-op back."

Heritage Montreal has denounced and questioned the decision to demolish the building, adding that firefighters recently demolished another building nearby after a fire.

"We must find a way to ensure that accidents do not automatically translate into a loss for heritage," Heritage Montreal policy director Dinu Bumbaru said.

"That means that the fire department should be recognized as a partner with homework, not just an authority."

Mayor Dorais said Sunday's priority was safety but more answers were soon to come.

"Everything will be settled in the coming days, including an effort to look into what happened, the sequence of events, [and] everyone's involvement," Dorais said.

He added that the city would be working towards finding the best way to assist uninsured residents.

Marcotte was skeptical that things would go their way if the city didn't make a concerted effort to rebuild the co-op.

"If they don't save us, they're going to build a 15 tower-[storey] condo, I'm pretty sure of that."

With files from René Saint-Louis/Radio-Canada


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