This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org, republished with permission from the author.
Last week on the way to my brother’s apartment, I decided to take a little detour through my old stomping grounds. I grew up in the quiet Montreal suburb of Pointe-Claire, in a complex of middle-class townhouses called Somervale Gardens.
When I arrived there, I could barely recognize the paradise of my youth. All I could see was the twenty years of deterioration and neglect. Although I was young at the time (I lived there between the ages of five and eighteen), I can still remember the landscape, the community and the people.
Somervale Gardens was built for new families with small children, but the place accommodated pretty much anyone. The complex contains about 150 townhouses and a few dozen apartments. It was an open, tight-knit community where all the kids knew each other and the parents did as well.
If you were a kid living there in the 1980s, you were one lucky adolescent. When my parents would tell my brother and I to go play outside, we didn’t have a backyard, we had our own world. And we were often left unsupervised given the safe nature of our community within a community.
The courtyards just outside our little patios provided enough space to go bike riding, skateboarding, even play a game of street hockey. The place was so huge to us, the only downside was that hide-and-seek was a nightmare.
There were also three separate parks for us to play in, all of which had their own nicknames. Each one had sand, monkey bars, slides, and two of them had swings. There were no shortages of play areas if you were a kid.
In the summer, the swimming pool area located at the center of the complex was also central to our social life. We used to have massive sleepovers, BBQ’s, contests, you name it. The lifeguards were always friendly and back in the day, some of them were even medical students.
My teen years there were just as fun. It was a refuge away from my socially inept high school. It was in Somervale that I met my best friends, kissed my first girl, got drunk for the first time and got into a whole lot of mischief. It was also the place that offered me my first employment. At the age of fifteen I was an assistant to the janitor and I got to see the inner workings of the complex.
But now, as I walk around what used to be my playground, I have to wonder if I’m just getting old or the place is really going to hell. I’ve never been to Detroit, so I don’t want to judge either too harshly, but it was the first place I thought of when I stepped foot inside one of the courtyards.
Many of the trees that grew have been uprooted, the grass that grew in some of the courtyards is either half dead or been replaced with concrete. The open once patios have all been fenced off and are falling apart.
Two of the parks we used to play in are completely gone. The only remnants that remain of the third are rusty old monkey bars surrounded by last year’s fallen foliage and potholes in the dirt.
As I walked past the swimming pool, I saw graffiti on the walls and I noticed a padlock on one of the gates was broken off. Any toddler could walk into the pool area and drown in the un-drained pool (when I went back a week later to take photos, the gate had been sealed shut using a thin wire.)
Moving on, I noticed there’s now a large dumpster in every driveway, the fences are dilapidated (some are being held up by 2X4’s leaning into them). The lamp posts that lit up the night in the courtyards are gone. But, the thing that upset me the most, was seeing the townhouse where I shared that first kiss. It’s now completely burnt out and boarded up.
Along with the obvious things, you could tell the owners of the complex didn’t want to invest in the place. There were no more flower pots, bushes were growing wild around the pool area, and the paint was wearing off the façade of the townhouses. It was a terrible sight for me. I’ll admit I didn’t get a chance to look inside any of the homes, but after seeing the outside, I didn’t care too.
Somervale Gardens Group (after researching them on the internet, I can’t tell you if they are a subsidiary of a larger corporation) rents their townhouses for $1250 a month for a three bedroom place. On par or a little less than a mortgage on a middle-class home of the same size.
Back in the mid-nineties when I left, my dad was paying about $800/month which was actually higher than a mortgage at the time. It’s clear that over the last twenty years, Somervale has been milking their inhabitants for every penny they can get without putting much back into the infrastructure. I wouldn’t go so far to say they’re slumlords in the traditional sense, but they are slumlords of the middle class and they are getting worse with time.
As the housing market continues to rise across the country, fewer people of intermediate means are able to afford the large down payments and/or mortgages necessary to buy their own home. So, they have to settle for places like Somervale Gardens.
Whether this place is an indication on where our middle class is headed or just another case of greedy landlords, we’re in trouble. Our standards should not be lowered by the greed of others, whoever they may be.
I have lived in the Gardens for 4 years now and yes this place is expensive and almost a shit hole, I have a 2 bedroom townhouse in the main building wich has the basment and is priced at 1125$, because i complained or else it would be 1150$!! I love the townhouse but fuck is the landlord a greedy BASTERD, old as fuck windows that the cold comes rolling in heat that you are “supposedly” controllable wich is not, you can sometimes hear mice and rats running between levels, warped floors, shitty plumbing and shitty electricity. But the location is prime wich is why rent has move up soo much. A 2 bedroom appartment is now 850$ and a one is about 650-700$. And the air in the appartments suck, a reason why we moved down to the main floor. If the landloard would put more cash in these places and keep up with upkeep of the complex i think habitants wouldn’t mind the high price.
But I know lots of folks will pay their price since thiere aren’t many if any other places like this with all the accommodations such as, heated, basement, washer&dryer hook ups, heated indoor garage luky me i think I’m the only one with a dishwasher hook up and a nice size patio and in prime location for the same price. Obviously the landlord knows all this!!
BUT YA I STILL AGREE WITH YOU!!!!
Wow is this is where I lived then everything you said took me back to that place it was beautiful everyone has their own patio people had plants out and flowers there was a giant weeping willow that we would get all the sheets from the neighborhood and pin them up and have a circus tent. There was a swing set teeter totter it was one of the greatest places to live as a child I truly love that place. Seeing this condition it’s heartbreaking and as I was reading everything you wrote tears to swelled up. Yes I wonder what is happening to the middle class? I remember the pool how much fun we would have. In the winter we would build a giant fort and I have all these different openings the slide in slide out they would pile the snow up high for us so that we could make it. Across from there was a giant field where we could ride our bikes and jump over ditches. Everyone had their own little balcony looking over the inside Courtyard and an underground carport. It was beautiful it was safe and it was fun. I can relate everything you said had my first crush and rescued my first dog. I hope you fix this place up and make it a far better place for people to live it’s very disturbing to think some giant companies just letting it fall apart. Thanks Mike for the trip down memory lane. Peace and love
Im honestly disgusted with this place too. I’ve lived in Somerville Gardens since I was 7 and now I’m currently 15. So much has changed here and this place is a huge shit hole. A place that was once a spot for kids to explore and let their creativity go wild all down into the trash because Somerville Gardens just got neglected more and more over the years. It’s like a kid saying that they want a pet bunny and as the kid got older he doesn’t have as much interest in the rabbit as much and starts to neglect it.
So much is wrong with this place and the people who are suppose to be taking care of it are 1. Scamming everyone with their high ass rent 2. The houses are falling apart and starting to rot, a way for them to fix it was to take metal pieces and cover over the wood of the building to hide the fact that the wood was rotting. They even did a half ass job at fixing the windows because people have been complaining that they’re windows are leaking water and damaging the inside of the wall and the inside of the house. 3. Squirrels are starting to make their way into peoples walls and living in there along with birds, mice and I’m pretty sure there’s a whole lot more. You might even find a god damn raccoon one day in your fkn town house or apartment because that’s how bad the place is being taken care of.
Not to long ago in 2019 I heard from people that they’re was a dead cat that drowned and was floating around inside of the pool. I did end up checking to see because of course I didn’t want that being true and when I went to the pool…there the cat was floating around. It took them a while to get the damn cat out and I bet you they didn’t even clean out the pool probably after removing the dead cat ( rip ).
I hate it here with a passion. When I was little around 7-9 I was in love with this place because of the amount of things I could do and for me I found it as my happy place to run out in the back and play in the area because I had a rough childhood and I always wanted to escape my house. This place is a total shit reck and I bet you there’s more wrong with the area that I don’t know of.
I used to live at Somervale in the late 70s. I loved growing up in Somvervale Grdns. I couldn’t have described Somervale better than you described it- you took my breath away. When I lived there we had a second pool! Now it’s a parking lot. Too bad. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.