Norma Ishayek never would have spotted the demolition notice in front of the apartment building at 3477 Drummond St. if a fellow neighbour, Larry Elman, hadn’t pointed it out to her.
“The sign was so inconspicuous. I regularly pass by there, but I never noticed it,” said the semi-retired nutritionist, who lives on Drummond between Sherbrooke St. W. and Dr. Penfield Ave.
Residents of the block in the Golden Square Mile — many of whom are retirees — have been in a tither since learning that developers Brandon Shiller and Jeremy Kornbluth plan to tear down the six-storey building and construct a 12-storey tower with more than three times as many units.
“It’s going to have a major impact on the quality of life on the whole block,” said Ishayek, who with Elman raised nearly 500 signatures opposing the project.
The new building, whose lower floors will jut out to the sidewalk instead of being set back like the current building, would block views of Mount Royal for some residents, they say.
With 107 units, compared with the current 32, the new building will have only 20 indoor parking spots, so residents say finding street parking will go from difficult to impossible.
Tenants in the current building, now empty, included long-term residents, including families. The new building will probably attract a more transient clientele since the units will be much smaller, residents say.
While the current building, constructed in the 1950s, is nondescript, at least it fits with the neighbourhood, unlike the new project, they say.
Residents also complain the owners appear to have begun demolition even though they don’t yet have a permit.
The demolition committee for the Ville-Marie borough will decide whether to approve the project at a virtual meeting Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
The urban planning department is recommending demolition, saying that while the building is sound, it was not built to last forever and its demolition would not be “a loss for the built environment.”
A spokesperson for Mayor Valérie Plante said the administration is “following this file very closely and we are listening to the concerns of citizens on this issue.”
“We salute their vigilance and would like to reiterate the importance of social acceptability towards real-estate projects that have an impact on the daily lives of residents,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.
However, the demolition committee will make the final call on whether the building is demolished, it said.
“At this point the decision is up to them,” it said.
Shiller and Kornbluth, who have made headlines for renovictions across the city, bought the building for $11 million on Oct. 30, 2019, and immediately issued eviction notices, claiming they intended to subdivide the apartments. Quebec law allows landlords to evict tenants in order to subdivide, enlarge, demolish or change the building’s use (for example, from residential to commercial).
Eight tenants contested their evictions before the Tribunal administratif du logement (formerly the Rental Board), but all eventually dropped their cases and moved out, TAL documents show.
“There was a lot of pressure” on tenants to leave, said lawyer Daniel Crespo, who represented tenant Anthony Morton, who had lived there for 18 and a half years and was nearing retirement.
“I do not believe the present owner’s motives for the present eviction notice and if so, the offer and conditions do not meet my present expectations, and do not seem fair and/or adequate,” Morton wrote in contesting the eviction.
However, he eventually consented to move out and sign a confidentiality agreement not to disclose the terms of the deal.
Crespo said that tenants who agreed to move out because their dwellings were to be subdivided might be eligible for compensation if the building is demolished, since their eviction notices specified the units would be subdivided.
A spokesperson for the developers, Pierre Guillot-Hurtubise, principal vice-president of the National public relations firm, said the owners originally intended to subdivide the apartments but later changed their minds because discussions with the city of Montreal raised the possibility of adding extra storeys to the building, which the current structure could not support.
Shiller and Kornbluth are associated with other developers on the project, he said.
It responds “both to the density and height criteria allowed in this sector, but also the new orientations of the city of Montreal in terms of architectural quality, social inclusion, affordability, family housing, number of bedrooms, sustainable development, etc.,” he said.
The project calls for 62 one-bedroom units, 37 two-bedroom ones and eight three-bedroom ones.
Guillot-Hurtubise said the demolition work underway on the site would have to be done anyway, even if the building is not torn down.
As for the loss of views of the mountain, he said the project respects the site’s zoning and any resident of a building near a construction project could face the same fate.
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