The City of Montreal is celebrating a big win after a Superior Court judge has compelled the owner of two crumbling heritage buildings to take action.
The two buildings on Esplanade St. across from Jeanne-Mance Park are in a visible state of neglect; there are gaping holes in the brick walls, rotting wood, drooping balconies, and large chunks of the buildings are falling apart.
This is an exceptionally extreme case of neglect of a beautiful heritage building,” said Projet Montreal city councillor Alex Norris. The fight to fix these building goes back 34 years, he said.
The city gave owner Guy Desrosiers his first fine in 1984, but the greystones continued to deteriorate.
“It's one of the most beautiful blocks in the city, and it's really unfortunate that for whatever reason it hasn't been able to be protected,” said neighbour Jonah Engle.
Drapes still hang in the windows, but all tenants were forced out in the 1990's when the buildings were declared unsafe. It's been a lengthy battle, but this judgment is a very important step forward,” said Norris.
The city finally took Desrosiers to court.
Judge Claude Dallaire ruled Desrosiers must demolish one building and restore the other, all while keeping both heritage facades in place.
It was the right decision, said Dino Bumbaru of Heritage Montreal. “In Montreal, we are one of the great North American cities that have not just a city, but a tangible heritage of streets, individual buildings, greystones, that actually bears witness to the effort of the previous generation,” he said.
The owner still lives on the ground floor of one building but wasn’t available to speak with CTV Montreal. The entire property is fenced off, except for his front door.
Doing the work is going to be costly, but the Norris says now, Desrosiers has no choice. “It's a court order, it's an injunction, and if you don't abide by an injunction, you can be found of contempt of court, which can carry very serious penalties,” he said.
If Desrosiers doesn't meet the deadline set out in the judgment, the city could step in, do the work and bill the owner for the costs. If he can't pay, the city could take ownership and sell the buildings or auction them off to retrieve the cost.
“The time has run out for Mr. Desrosiers, the time to act is now,” said Norris.
The city says Desrosiers has already applied for a demolition permit. “I'm glad something is being done,” said Engle, “but I'm sad something is being lost.”