Monday, December 08, 2008

Seville theatre, nothing but heartaches

Who in this city does not have a theory about the ongoing miserable state of the block of St. Catherine between Closse and Chomedy? The strip, which once contained the Seville theatre, a laundrymat, a couple of restaurants, a bar, a market and so forth, has - over about 25 years - slowly descended to a shell of nothingness lined with inexplicably cheerful Inuit panhandlers.

Meanwhile relative prosperity reigns on all sides, north is home to a posh apartment complexes, west is Westmount and east is miles of thriving downtown shopping strip.

About five years back Claridge Inc - aka Stephen Bronfman, son of Charles, last remaining Bronfman Montreal male - had big plans to transform the empty areas into an eco-friendly residential and commercial development. They bought up the land and hired big name eco-friendly builders and made big presentations about the idea. The concept was to have 40 percent commercial, 14 percent residential, 12 percent offices and some common space. It was to have geothermal heating, solar chimneys, passive solar heating, hollow walls, green walls, green roof, waterwalls and a lot of other cutting edge enviro friendly stuff. The problem apparently was that the big enviro-chains just werent that keen on setting shop there and supposedly Bronfman took a big hit in his wealth when his portfolio went down. Sad story.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

"onfman took a big hit in his wealth when his portfolio went down. Sad story."

SHall we organise a tag day for him?

Guillaume said...

This area has been abandoned since the closing of the Forum. Cant Bronfman renovate the buildings and lease them as he did in so many other places instead of leaving them there to shame every Montrealer whenever they take a walk on west Ste-Catherine?

Seth said...

As a "downtowner" from the age of about 17 to 35 I frequented this area for many years. It's true the whole area just dived once the forum was closed but truth be told, the whole area was always really a dump in disguise.

Because of the bus terminus, there was constant bus traffic polluting and making noise. Pigeon park (I've called it that my whole life but it probably has a real name) has always been dirty and disgusting crawling with vermin and drug dealers.

The McDonalds was dirty and the most expensive one on the island. The Sunoco (does it still exist and wasn't it a Texaco at one time?) didn't help the atmosphere and neither did the wider streets and heavier traffic. If I remember correctly, Ste. C's used to be 2 ways back in the day.

For years I did my laundry at the laundry mat on, I think either Lambert Clossé or Chomedy and it was always full of freaks. I guess I was just one of them. I was so happy when the Multimags opened up there because it gave me something to do while my clothes were drying. I remember my ex-GF was once flashed by one of the above mentioned freaks in that area.

The "2 for 1" arcade on the south side was were I got my first taste of drugs as a teenager. Bad area, I tell you and that Dunkin Donuts was always rumoured to have cockroaches.

The Seville theatre itself was truly an institution. I remember seeing Pink Floyd The Wall there in the 80's and was very sad to watch it slowly crumble away to the sad state that it's in now. Quite pathetic, really.

I always felt sorry for the tenants that lived in all those upper floor apartments/rooms which I always imagined as being tiny and not very private; sort of like the one I looked at once on the west side St. Marc St. just south of Ste. C's.

Of course there were 3 taverns right on that strip that I can think of. There was the Au Parloir which for a time in the 80's was the domain of a strange mixture of skinheads and said cheery Inuits who somehow managed to live/drink in harmony with each other. This place was great in that they didn't ask for ID so anyone could get a beer or three. It had a bunch of very cheap wooden tables and even cheaper chairs and you had 2 choices of drink; either the house draught in a "bock" or the house draught in a pitcher.

Across from the Au Parloir in a bit of a glassed-in semi-basement was a more "posh" bar, I believe. I can't remember it's name or if it still exists.

And of course a bit farther east down Ste. C's was/is Diana's which was a classier version of Au Parloir - which isn't saying much. By the time you pass Fort, the strip is over, more pedestrian traffic starts appearing and it starts getting a bit cleaner and safer.

Ohhh, I almost forgot! Toe Blake's Tavern was right there somewhere too. I believe it was on the south side but I'm not sure where exactly. Does anyone remember where it was and when it closed?

I really don't know why this area has always been a dump but I can't see it ever getting better. I'm not sure what Stephen was thinking; he should have consulted with me. I actually went to school with his sister, Ellen but don't remember ever meeting him. Actually, I do see one way that this area can make a mint for Bronfman. If they raze that whole area and it becomes the base of a GIANT tower to rival the Burj Dubai. Not sure who the tenants would be in this day and age so maybe waiting a bit before starting the construction would be a good idea.

Peace.