A stone’s throw from all the action at the Jazz fest taking place in the city’s brand-new Place des festivals, Café Cleopatre sits surrounded by art-covered boarded-up buildings waiting to know if it will still be there next year. Across the street, though, there is life and things are being builtâ€¦or at least that was the case last week.
Construction has stopped on Angus Development’s 2-22 project which was supposed to house the Imago group, CIBL Radio and La Vitrine Culturelle among others. Apparently, the federal and provincial funding needed for these groups to occupy the space hasn’t come through yet.
Angus head Christian Yaccarini told La Presse that he is confident that all the contracts will be signed and construction will resume real soon and Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay is holding a cheque is in the mail-type attitude to the delay, telling the Gazette that he has full confidence in Ottawa and Quebec City. Despite these attempts at being positive, the simple fact that this project is in trouble is a far contrast to the mood surrounding it even a few months ago.
The 2-22 was by far the least controversial of Yaccarini’s projects for the lower Main, given that it wasn’t going to be an enormous skyscraper and would actually hosue cultural industries in a Quartier de spectacles (go figure). This stands in sharp contrast to the proposed Quadrilaterre, which has already evicted three venues and would see a fourth, the venerable Cabaret Cleo, which showcases many independent artists, disappear as well, in order to make room for an office tower.
If Yaccarini really wanted to support culture and fit his plans in with the idea of what an entertainment district is supposed to be, maybe he could help cover the cost if the government money doesn’t show up. Unfortunately, that may be a little hard for him to do now, seeing as he has already spent a bundle buying out and relocating historic businesses and performance venues to build an office building for Hydro Quebec that aren’t needed and no one wants.
This may end up being good news for the artists, historians and ordinary people trying to save Cleo and the historic red light district from demolition and gentrification. With an OCPM ruling against the project, tons of alternate ideas out there that better reflect the cultural and historic nature of the area and ongoing resistance to the project, maybe this recent setback is the straw that will break the camel’s back and those in power will realize that Yaccarini’s vision won’t work on the lower Main and isn’t what’s needed for what is supposed to be the cultural hub of Montreal.