THE FAUBOURG AS GOOD AS GONE

Montreal Times - - Front Page - By: Ser­gio Martinez - mtl­times.ca

It was an iconic struc­ture in the west end sec­tor of down­town, it was even de­clared a her­itage build­ing by the Quebec Min­istry of Cul­ture in 1976, although par­tially de­clas­si­fied in 2015, thus al­low­ing its own­ers to dis­man­tle it slowly.The former shop­ping cen­tre known as the Faubourg Sainte Cather­ine, sit­u­ated on that main com­mer­cial artery af­ter which is named, be­tween Guy and Saint Mathieu streets was a real jewel. Dur­ing its hey­days in the 1990s you could go there and get the best fruit and veg­eta­bles at Plan­ta­tion, fresh fish at Odessa, a va­ri­ety of cheese at an­other store, and if you were hun­gry, en­joy a meal in any of the many restau­rants on the third floor.There was even a bar, and in the base­ment, five cin­e­mas.That was in­side the in­door­mar­ket-style of the struc­ture, which ben­e­fited from an ex­ten­sive area with nat­u­ral light; also fac­ing the street, there were other stores.

I re­mem­ber writ­ing a piece about the place when its de­cline started, at that time I in­ter­viewed the owner of what was then one of the last shops sur­viv­ing, an ex­cel­lent bagel store on the first floor: "it is all dead now," she told me. Well, it has been a long agony, if you en­ter the mostly de­serted build­ing now, you will only find empty spa­ces, large por­tions of the place are boarded up, but there are no signs of whether this is due to some ren­o­va­tions go­ing on or to the site's fi­nal demise.

To­day only very few stores sur­vive in­side the build­ing, and de­spite their ef­forts, they look rather pa­thetic. I wan­dered through the third floor, now poorly lit, where restau­rants used to flour­ish, and there is only one Chi­nese restau­rant still func­tion­ing. The well-ap­pre­ci­ated tai­lor is still there; I imag­ine that's be­cause that store has its own faith­ful clien­tele, the same goes for an­other sin­gle shop, a beauty par­lour.

A com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors seems to have caused this de­cline, ac­cord­ing to former ten­ants at one point the rents went too high and that put them out of busi­ness or sim­ply forced them to leave. That could have been the case with the ex­cel­lent Thai food restau­rant Bangkok which re­lo­cated in the gay vil­lage. Rental fees go­ing up beyond rea­son­able lim­its is usu­ally one big fac­tor in the clos­ing of stores all over the city, the re­sult of greed on the part of big real es­tate own­ers.

In­creas­ing com­pe­ti­tion in the area is an­other fac­tor that has been men­tioned, the in­stal­la­tion of su­per­mar­kets such as P.A. and Moure­latos, adding to the ex­ist­ing Provigo nearby, might have af­fected some stores. How­ever, of all those, only P.A. is cur­rently open: Moure­latos was too small and could never be a se­ri­ous com­peti­tor, and Provigo since then has closed. Ado­nis opened a few years ago when most of the Faubourg stores had al­ready closed, so it was not a fac­tor in its de­cline. Com­pe­ti­tion for the restau­rants al­ways ex­isted in the area. There­fore it can­not be listed as a de­ci­sive con­tribut­ing fac­tor ei­ther.

The fact that Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­sity is now oc­cu­py­ing many of the pre­vi­ous in­stal­la­tions breeds some life into the hol­low struc­ture, but that is only tem­po­rary and in­suf­fi­cient to re­vive what was once a pleas­ant place to shop or just hang out.A place now on the brink of death be­cause of greed. Iron­i­cally, Crofton Moore, the owner of the site (which I con­tacted but the per­son in charge of this file didn’t re­turn the call), still lists on its web­site the virtues of the place as is used to be, not as it is right now in its calami­tous state. "Lo­cated in the heart of the Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­sity neigh­bour­hood, which con­tains the dens­est con­cen­tra­tion of res­i­den­tial apart­ments in the coun­try, Le Faubourg Sainte-Cather­ine of­fers an invit­ing mix of shops, restau­rants, and of­fices all housed in a bright, airy space that's at­trac­tive to the many thou­sands of res­i­dents that call this ur­ban vil­lage home." A de­scrip­tion of those good old days that for the Faubourg Sainte Cather­ine now are over.

The west­ern en­trance to the Faubourg on Ste Cather­ine is now locked up

Con­cor­dia now oc­cu­pies what once were the cin­e­mas, but its pres­ence doesn't give much life to the site

Boarded-up spa­ces are every­where at the Faubourg these days

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