Queen Mary Road Businesses Fight Eviction, Gentrification

  • Christina Yotis’ bakery ‘Rodos’ has been on Queen Mary Street for 30 years. Rodos and five other small businesses will have to relocate to make way for condos and a Pharmaprix pharmacy. PHOTO ERIN SPARKS

An eviction notice is prominently on display atop the bar in Rodos restaurant.

Christina Yotis, owner of the 30-year-old Greek eatery located on Queen Mary Road, was not alone in receiving news that her business would need to move elsewhere this spring—all of the shops and restaurants on her block have been told they need to leave. These included Ermitage, Toto Express, Queen Sushi, Aux plaisirs du Palais and Clove Flower shop.

The businesses on the strip are ethnically diverse, mostly small and family run. Some of them have been in the same location for decades.

“This is not like changing apartments,” said Yotis. “Rodos is a landmark here.”

The tenants facing eviction are not the only ones upset about the matter. Recently, a group of friends and loyal customers of the businesses joined together to form the Snowdon Committee—an effort to raise awareness about the evictions, and an attempt to push for the preservation of the block.

The group has created Facebook, YouTube and Twitter pages, in addition to a website which hosts a petition to allow the businesses on the block to stay in hopes of preserving the street’s ethnic diversity.

The committee needs 1,500 signatures to take their case to the city. At the time of publication, 679 people had signed—not including the signatures on the paper copy housed in Rodos.

Ksenia Solokoff, Concordia student and secretary of the Snowdon Committee, described the block affectionately as the epicenter of a tight-knit cultural community.

“It has become part of our lives,” she said. “I hope that everyone gets to know those places the way I got to know them.”

Allprime Properties Inc., the new owner of the building, intends to demolish the block to pursue a project called L’Aragon Queen Mary. The plan is to turn the strip into a complex of condos with a Pharmaprix and a Subway located on the main floor. The pre-existing Subway was the only business on the block granted the right to stay.

“I support the small businesses in a case like this,” said Peter McQueen, a city councilor representing Notre Dame de Grace. “I’m not against new construction, but if we’re not careful the city will become too homogenous.”

Yotis claims that while she has long since received an eviction notice, she has yet to see evidence of a demolition permit. “I think he prematurely tried to evict us, having nothing in his hand—and it’s not fair,” she said.

Yotis asked to continue renting from the new owner; however, she says that she was categorically refused. Her lease was due to finish in 2013.

“I just don’t see how they can treat good citizens and small businesses in this respect,” she said.

There will be a hearing held on Jan. 17 in which Allprime Properties Inc. will present their plans to the city. The Snowdon Committee will be there, as will the signatures. She said the hearing should give everyone a better idea of where they stand.

Yotis and Solokoff refused to give up.

“I will fight,” said Yotis.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 18, published January 11, 2011.

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