Parc-Extension Residents Protest Sale of Community Building

Many Concerned About Gentrification in Their Neighbourhood

Hutchison Plaza sits on Hutchinson St. and Parc Av., just outside of Parc metro station. Photo Miriam Lafontaine

Hutchison Plaza has long served the community of Parc-Extension.

Just outside of the Parc metro station on Hutchinson St., the plaza used to house places of worship, family-run businesses, an aid centre for immigrants, and a radio station.

Now, most of its tenants have been evicted on short notice, after a new owner bought the building. The rest will be soon be on their way out to make way for luxury apartments.

On Wednesday night, about a hundred people came out in protest.

“We know that this project will not serve the community of Parc-Extension,” said Catherine Lussier, coordinator with the local housing rights group Comité d’action de Parc-Extension.

The plaza’s new owner, BSR Group, is transforming the building into a 70-unit apartment complex that “will offer the best of both worlds, as residents will enjoy all that these culturally diverse, trendy and artistic Montreal neighbourhoods have to offer.”

On Oct. 18, the owner of Marché Pardesh, Mohammed Azizul Haque, received news that he would have to leave his business in a month’s time.

Since then, he says he’s had difficulty sleeping out of concern for how he’ll be able to provide for his family.

“What can I do?” he said to The Link over the phone.

He’s still there and he’s asked that landlord Ron Basal give him a six-month eviction notice respecting his lease. Haque also wants Basal to pay for his moving costs.

Basal said it’s his right to evict tenants with one month’s notice, since those renting in the building have month to month leases.

“We exercised our right,” he said. “Mind you, 70 or 80 per cent of them just ran on us, they didn’t pay us for the rent.”

“Parc-Extension is extremely underserved, there’s very little services that meet the cultural needs and reflect the diversity of the neighbourhood.”–Faiz Abhuani

When asked about the rental cost of future apartments, Basal said he’d do so according to market price. Many low income people live in Parc-Extension, so the concern for many at the protest is that with higher prices, people who have long lived there will be pushed out to the periphery.

“Ok, so? They’ll go to another building. We will go market price,” Basal said.

Most of the permits needed to construct the new apartment building have been approved, and Basal said the city will approve another permit for BSR Group any day now.

Since Haque’s yet to find a new place, he’s still running his grocery store there. He’s had difficulty finding a new place since he says rent in the area is high in comparison to what he’s used to paying.

“How can I move in such a short time?” he said.

With rent going up and with the news that a new Université de Montréal campus will open in 2019 between Beaumont and Van Horne Aves., gentrification is a concern for many, Lussier said.

“This is already having a strong impact on property values,” said Faiz Abhuani, the executive director from Brique par brique, a co-op housing group that’s working to establish itself in the neighbourhood and open an affordable housing unit.

After analyzing the property value of dozens of apartments and duplexes around the area, their group estimates that the property values has gone up by eight per cent over the past six months.

With the Hutchinson Plaza now gone, locals have less access to services that were vital to them, he said.

“Parc-Extension is extremely underserved,” explained Abhuani. “There’s very little services that meet the cultural needs and reflect the diversity of the neighbourhood.”