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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2010

 

Expropriate Overdale!

 

Demolition: within minutes pulleys, chains and trucks can transform a visual touchstone, place of fabulous living bricks and mortar and vibrant history and memories into a pile of junk to be trucked off.

 

This is the fate that the city has decreed for the Lower Main and one of its most unique and liveliest of spots - the Cafe Cleopatra. What's more shocking is that the city plans to expropriate the properties and simply hand them over to another owner, a practice that's considered ethically dubious at best.

 

If indeed the city proposes to tread in those murky waters, we propose that they set their sights further west.

 

Over two decades ago the city of Montreal allowed landowners Douglas Cohen and Robert Landau to demolish a neighbourhood of about seven buidings buildings housing about 100 people at the corner of Mackay and René-Lévesque. The city could easily have refused them permission to demolish the structures, as most suggested that the buildings be integrated into the larger project that the duo proposed.

 

But Cohen and Landau insisted that their $500 million condo project could never happen unless the entire block was razed.

 

The city blinked and ordered the tenants out and demolished the buildings. Mayor Dore and his assistant John Gardiner suffered a major blow to their credibility and their powerful MCM party started a downhill spiral that ended when they were voted out of power.

 

Meanwhile the owners never kept their promise to build condos on the property. Two decades later the owner Robert Landau has not only failed to build anything on the land but he's created an urban parking hell eyesore where a vibrant neighbourhood once stood.

 

Robert Landau also runs Landau Fine Art Gallery at Mackay and Sherbrooke. Landau's family money comes from the fur business. He opposed the greening of Mackay last year. He has sought to demolish the last remaining structure on the property, which has considerable historic value. Landau has some sort of British accent even though he's a Montrealer. He said in an interview "you know that you can trust us." Get the picture?

 

Landau looks like he'll be alive for a few more years and he seems unable or unwilling to get anything done on the precious downtown block.

 

The city should expropriate and resell the land to someone to build on the land. An indoor parking lot could be incorporated so even those who like to park their cars there could still be accommodated.

 

Montreal's city administration was tricked and betrayed and burnt by the Overdale affair but it can now make things right by some forceful action that it has claimed to be willing to take in much less justifiable circumstances. Mayor Tremblay claims he's willing to use this tool, he should use some wisdom to discern the proper place to use it.

 

http://coolopolis.blogspot.com/2010/02/expropriate-overdale.html

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