Griffintown housing co-op partially demolished after being declared unsafe

Some residents in Griffintown are feeling frustrated and hopeless after part of a housing co-operative was demolished Sunday night, just days after being evacuated.

Resident Nicole Bagnato was not allowed in to retrieve her husband's ashes prior to demolition

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      One Griffintown resident who lost all her belongings after her home was demolished Sunday night is looking for the city employee who saved her husband's ashes.

      "I don't know his name. I only know he works for the City of Montreal," Nicole Bagnato told CBC News. "Before they started the demolition process, he told me, 'I will do my very best to retrieve the urn,' and he did, so I want to thank him very much."

      The urn is almost the only thing Bagnato has left from her housing co-operative, which was one of the 19th-century buildings that form the Coopérative d'Habitation Ste-Anne at 181 and 185 de la Montagne Street.

      The demolition was ordered last week after fire department officials declared that the buildings were at risk of collapsing.

      Residents were not allowed inside to get their belongings because entering the building was considered a safety risk.

      "I couldn't believe it... We weren't allowed to go pick up [anything,] not even clothes, and never mind the furniture. We lost all our furniture," said Bagnato.

      Nicole Bagnato had to leave her home when her housing co-op on de la Montagne Street in Griffintown was was evacuated April 1. (CBC)
      Bagnato's home was evacuated on April 1. She had been living with her sister and was under the impression the housing co-op could be fixed.

      The evacuation put 18 people out of their homes. At least 10 were taken in by the Red Cross, while others found shelter with friends and family.

      A structural engineer hired by the co-op said residents of the building that was not demolished would likely not be able to return to their homes at least until the end of the day.

      "It's not quite safe yet," said Yvonick Houde of RHR Expert.

      Shifting soil forces demolition

      Residents of the Coopérative 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 and has been praised for its plans to incorporate Keegan House — Griffintown's oldest house — into the design.

      The Cooperative d’Habitation Ste-Anne sits next door to where the tiny Keegan House once stood before it was temporarily moved to make way for the new Brickfields condominium development. (Google Streetview)
      Houde said soil shifted underneath the foundation of 181 de la Montagne Street as a result of excavation work on the condo project.

      "Everything was fine until they dug a hole next to us," Bagnato said, adding that she wants someone to take accountability.

      I want somebody to say, "I'm sorry,"- Nicole  Bagnato , Griffintown resident whose home was demolished

      "Where will we live next? We have to find clothes and figure out when we will go back to work. Life must go on but we can't go back to work in that state," she said. 

      "I've never seen one person from the construction [company]. Nobody contacted us to see how we're doing.... I want somebody to say, 'I'm sorry, it's our fault.'"

      Residents and the organization Heritage Montreal questioned the decision to raze the building rather than secure it.

      "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.

      With files from CBC journalist Raffy Boudjikanian


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