Fattal Loft’s Uncertain Future

By the muddy banks of the train tracks there is a loft the locals call Death House.

A venue used by punks and many others in the underground scene to express anger, confusion and rage at social inequalities and lack of justice in the system.

Basically it is a place where they can “stick it to the man”. Here, they play it loud and they play it distorted…and there’s never enough room in the pit.

Outside, a few black shirts with long hair are talking, smoking, and groups of metal heads and punks have assembled along the pavement of the courtyard to watch a fire spinner weave loops of flame in the background.

Tonight the Fattal space is crowded because tonight is Fattal Fest: a weekend of live indoor and outdoor acts.

Fattal Fest is dedicated to the music of this scene because the Fattal lofts are more than a place to live, they are an artistic community that, while having it’s dark side, also has many positives.  Everyone here is out trying to have a good time and not think about the gathering storm that might lead to its demise.

The  Lofts are located near the train tracks that traverse through the backyards of St.Henri. Every once in awhile a train is traveling along the track, rattling steel rubs against itself and the train sounds its horns to tell approaching vehicles not to attempt a pass. This is, of course St. Remi –cars try to jump the tracks all the time.

While everybody is having a good time listening to the screeching music from the passing trains, off in the distance a crane from the super hospital hangs in front of the moon and  there are lingering questions about the future of the Fattal lofts. The Fattal company, according to rumour, might be more interested in putting up condos then preserving the heritage of the building. The inhabitants of the Fatal Lofts, mostly artist and underprivileged, are struggling in a repetitious battle happening all over North America –the battle against redevelopment and gentrification.

A few residents have taken up the cause of fighting the landlord and the city,  but there hasn’t been that much good news to celebrate. In February tenants of 5 adjacent lofts in the complex all received eviction notices from the city borough. The Fattal complex is located within the boundaries of the Village des Tannieres, targeted by city development projects–which many in the community fear will lead to gentrification of the area and demolition of the Fattal. There has also been very little communication between Fattal management and its tenants, leaving the Fattal community wondering if they have a future there.

Will there be an exodus of punks in the area? With the neighborhood changing rapidly to accommodate the soon to be complete McGill University Super Hospital, redevelopment will soon spread through the South-West of Montreal. If the area changes it is only a matter of time before this community disappears…

There are (at least) two factors that will determine whether this place can survive: the building of the Super Hospital  and the rebuilding of the Turcotte in St Henri Propre. Will this lead to “professionals” and would-be condo owners flocking to the area?

It’s no secret that it has long been the focus of the Tremblay administration to revitalize the South-West, including Griffintown, Village Des Tannieres and Lachine canal.

This space has spawned many great punk bands and one reason why punks like coming to the here is the blooming music community. There are a shitload of bands living in these old quarters that at one time housed the workers employed at the adjacent ammunition factory. Today there is the intentional breaking of bottles and the occasional person crashed out on floor of the compound, that make for a wild party atmosphere.

In front of the granite parking lot I spoke with “Dika” a resident of one of the adjoining lofts within the main building.

“We’re worried about the gentrification of St Henri because I heard that 10 years from now he wants to turn these into condos because they are building a super hospital nearby. I heard rumors that they are going to need to build spaces for doctors to live around the hospital.”

A few tenants in his building  have decided to form an advocacy group to defend themselves. The group has been speaking with Fattal, which has been difficult, to say the least.

“We figured out ideas to keep this place. I pay 700 hundred bucks for ten years.  that’s the law!” says Dika, smoking a cigarette by the entrance of his building, “Were doing activism , that’s what punks do, we’re activist!”

I’m taken a back thinking about what would happen to him if this place ceased to exist: ” [I’m] a second away from the street. If you take me away from this place, I’ll be out on the street.”

Discussion between the residents, the city and developers has happened in the past, however many people like Dika are upset with the current plans for the Turcotte and the future of Village des Tannieres.

There is a hope that Fattal can be saved, but only time will tell.


Photos by Chris Zacchia

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