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Plans to demolish Griffintown’s oldest house raise concern

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--March 4, 2014.

MONTREAL — Griffintown could lose part of a rare 19th-century streetscape if a developer gets permission to tear down a row of buildings on de la Montagne St.

larger_griff.1.jpgCondo-builder Maître Carré has requested a demolition permit for a row of 19th-century buildings at 161-175 de la Montagne that includes the oldest house in Griffintown.

Plans submitted to the Sud-Ouest borough propose to demolish the row of buildings to make room for a 10-storey condo project.

If the demolition is approved, the developer has offered to reconstruct the tiny house at 175 de la Montagne and integrate it into the future development.

Julie Nadon, chief of the borough’s urban planning division, said plans for the proposed project are not being made public. “It’s confidential,” she said.

Nadon said the borough’s demolition committee has not yet set a date for a public hearing on the request, which was filed Oct. 28, but she predicted it will probably take place in March.

She said her division completed a report in December making recommendations to the committee on whether the demolition should be approved, but that report is also secret.

Nadon said the committee will base its decision on the heritage value of the buildings and their state of repair.

“It will look at whether to demolish one, two or three buildings, because each one is being considered separately even if the replacement project applies to all three properties,” she said.

Heritage advocates said the proposed demolition would deal another blow to the few remaining vestiges of Griffintown’s past.

“I think it’s a national treasure. It’s the last of what was here,” said Harvey Lev, a local businessman who owns the historic New City Gas complex on Ottawa St.

He added the borough should not be making plans for such an important part of the district’s heritage behind closed doors.

“Show us the plans. Show us everything,” Lev said.

A report by the city’s heritage division dated Sept. 13 said the buildings, located in an area of “exceptional heritage value,” are among the oldest in the Griffintown. They bear witness to Griffintown’s history as an industrial district alongside the Lachine Canal and are a rare surviving example of typical working-class housing in a neighbourhood that has undergone dramatic transformation, the report said.

larger_griff.2.jpgThe site is also important as an urban landscape because of its strategic location facing Griffintown St. Ann Park and because it forms a harmonious ensemble with other 19th-century houses on the street. The uniqueness of the house at 175 de la Montagne is another component of the site’s heritage value, the report said.

A condo boom, including Devimco’s District Griffin complex, has been transforming the former working-class neighbourhood, which was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in Canada.

Lev added he was skeptical of the promise to reconstruct the house because other demolished heritage structures in the district that were supposed to be replaced, like the chimneys on the former Dow Brewery, have never been rebuilt.