Parc-Extension Residents Aren’t Letting Up Against Gentrification

Protesters Meet Once Again to Stop Luxury Apartment Projects

Parc-Extension residents vow to keep pressure in the neighbourhood to halt gentrification. Photo Daren Zomerman

About 20 protesters met outside of Parc Metro station on Monday night while the Villeray—Saint-Michel—Parc-Extension borough’s Comité consultatif d’urbanisme met behind closed doors to discuss construction permits for the luxury apartment revamp project of Plaza Hutchison.

About 10 police cars surrounded the area. Officers stood inside the building and chained the doors, preventing anyone from entering.

Stéphanie Guay, one of the members of a support group for the remaining tenants of the community building, was eventually able to convince the council to let her speak at the meeting.

For decades Plaza Hutchison, or the Johnny Brown Building, was home for community organizations, spaces of worship, radio stations, language schools, and small businesses Now only three tenants remain. Long-time Parc-Ex resident Adeel Hayat described the building as “looking like a disaster zone.”

During the last urban planning consultation committee meeting—when a decision was should has been made—the support group sent a four-page report, which Guay found out was not distributed to the council that met on Monday. Councillor for the Francois-Perrault district, Sylvain Ouellette, told Guay that they had “given the council the big lines of the document.”

Guay described the procedures of the CCU as “absolutely not transparent.”

“I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ We wrote you a four-page document so I didn’t think I would have to repeat myself,” she said.

“I told them that urbanism isn’t just about bricks and tiles and colours, but it’s also about the usage the community makes of the building and I told them a little more about the history of the [Johnny Brown] building and its significance for the neighbourhood.”

Hayat is outraged by the approach the borough councillors have taken to this project. He says that the city hasn’t taken a look at the building at all nor paid attention to the project.

He said he spoke to a councillor on the phone who told him she hadn’t seen the documents or heard about the project at all.

“Where is the truth in any of this? Why isn’t anyone showing the documents? It’s going to maybe change the neighbourhood in a bad way,” he said. “Shouldn’t they talk to the people here? That’s a normal process.”

“[If this projects goes through], it will mean the eviction of the remaining tenants, which is one community organization and two businesses in the building,” said Amy Darwish, another member of the citizen support group. “We think that’s absolutely unacceptable.”

Darwish said that they will continue to protest in the neighbourhood, to shut down this project and any others like it and halt gentrification.