Montreal coalition that snagged a huge property for arts and community development splits - Canadanewsmedia
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Montreal coalition that snagged a huge property for arts and community development splits

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Some of the bitterest disputes over urban development break out over property that no one has had to think about for generations. Such is the case with a vast swath of former railway land in Montreal’s down-at-heel Pointe-Saint-Charles district, where local activists have won more than one round against a powerful developer.

It’s a classic David and Goliath story, about ordinary citizens who shut down a proposal for a casino, luxury hotel and convention hall in their neighbourhood, and also gained part of the property for community use. It’s also about a struggle between former allies – the arts and culture organization Quartier Éphémère (QÉ) and the social-activist coalition Collectif 7 à Nous (C7N) – over how to divide the spoils.

The groups were united in their successful campaign to wrest a disused, 8,360 square-metre warehouse, known as Bâtiment 7, from Groupe Mach, a developer most recently in the news for its bid to buy Air Transat. But the alliance split over how much of Bâtiment 7 should be used for community services such as co-op workshops, event spaces and a daycare; and how much for artists’ studios and galleries.

The initial tussle over Bâtiment 7 began in 2004 when CN Rail sold its disused property in Pointe Saint-Charles to Groupe Mach for the symbolic sum of one dollar. The land spans 32.5 hectares – equivalent to 55 football fields, or one-quarter of the entire borough.

Groupe Mach’s first move was to negotiate a $25-million sale of one-third of the rail land to a partnership led by Loto-Québec. The provincial lottery corporation envisioned a casino and luxury hotel on the site, as well as a marina, convention centre and permanent performance venue for Cirque du Soleil.

Community activists condemned the proposal, saying it would accelerate gentrification and offer nothing to residents of Pointe-Saint-Charles. A petition against the project was signed by an absolute majority of the borough’s adult population.

Place Bonaventure, a downtown convention centre, was also unhappy with the plan, which would use public money to build a competing facility. After continued pressure by media-savvy activists, Cirque du Soleil withdrew and the project collapsed.

Part of Batiment 7 opened to the public in May, 2018.

7 Ë NOUS/Batiment 7

There are 20 buildings on the rail lands. Groupe Mach let it be known during public consultations in 2008 that it wished to demolish Bâtiment 7, the building nearest to dwellings in the borough, and raise condos on the site. When a roof over part of the five-section building collapsed under the weight of snow, Groupe Mach promptly bulldozed that end of the structure.

C7N activists mounted a campaign to save the remainder. One of their actions in 2009 was a squat, or illegal occupation, of another structure on the site. That ended with a forceful eviction by police, but the campaign continued.

“We said that Bâtiment 7 must belong to the community, free of charge,” says Marcel Sévigny, a former borough councillor and member of C7N. The collective put pressure on the borough government to refuse Groupe Mach’s requests for zoning changes – needed to build condos on other parts of the property – unless it transferred Bâtiment 7 to the community. In May, 2010, after a change in local government, the new mayor agreed.

Montreal is known for the frequency and intensity of its street protests, including the long tuition-related campaign by students that helped topple the provincial government of Jean Charest in 2012. According to a 106-page booklet about the fight for Bâtiment 7, written by Sévigny and others, the borough’s mayor told the chief of police that those involved in wildcat actions “aren’t in the habit of asking for permits, especially for something which, in their view, belongs to them.”

The booklet also states that Groupe Mach chairman Vincent Chiara resisted meeting with those whom he called “les militants chialeux” (loosely, “whiny activists”). As a collector of contemporary art, however, he was more willing to negotiate with Quartier Éphémère, whose director, Caroline Andrieux, also runs the Darling Foundry, a visual-arts complex in a raw industrial space.

Andrieux and members of the QÉ board negotiated a deal in which Groupe Mach would hand over Bâtiment 7 to QÉ for free, decontaminate the building and surrounding land, and pay $1-million for the start of renovations. The accord was signed in 2011.

The developer, however, took six years to complete decontamination and the legal work needed to divide the property. During that time, QÉ transferred ownership to C7N, to protect its existing assets at the Darling Foundry in case anything should go wrong at Bâtiment 7 (C7N had no assets). Andrieux says that QÉ retained a contractual right to reclaim and develop two of Bâtiment 7‘s four remaining sections – 43 per cent of the whole.

“Groupe Mach used a strategy of delay,” says Sévigny. “They wanted to wear us down, so that people would get discouraged and abandon the project. That was the most difficult period for us.”

Activists turned the delay to their advantage, however, refining their plans and shoring up support. By the time the developer delivered the building in 2017, C7N had secured a commitment of $2.2-million from municipal and provincial governments, and had a detailed plan for a $4.2-million renovation of about half of the structure.

That part of Bâtiment 7 opened to the public in May, 2018. The complex includes an all-levels art school; sculpture, silkscreen and ceramic studios; carpentry, bike repair and metal-work ateliers; a youth-run game room and junk-repurposing centre; a food store and micro-brewery; and event spaces for whatever creative thing someone wants to do. It’s all run with a non-hierarchical management structure, says Sévigny, and broke even during its first year.

C7N decided that Batiment 7 should include a daycare centre, in part of the space claimed by QÉ.

Allen Vallières /Batiment 7

QÉ was also working on its vision for the site. It spent $65,000, including $50,000 in public funds, on a feasibility study and detailed plan for its 43-per-cent share of the building. Its proposal, entitled Le Rail, includes 20 artists’ studios, research and education spaces, and a multipurpose room, with at least one-quarter of the facilities reserved for people from Pointe-Saint-Charles. It informed C7N that it wished to execute its contractual option to take over the still-undeveloped rear sections of the building.

“[Bâtiment 7] is actually two projects,” says Andrieux. “We were supposed to do the artistic component, and they would do the community part” – though QÉ’s part, she said, was always intended to have a strong local component. She was surprised when she learned that C7N’s sections included an art school and studios.

Further surprises were in store. C7N decided that Bâtiment 7 should include a daycare centre, in part of the space claimed by QÉ. “We believe they take too much room, versus the expressed needs of [Pointe-Saint-Charles],” says Sévigny.

In early June of this year, on the eve of a meeting between the two groups to sort out their differences, C7N sent Andrieux an e-mail stating its position. “Instead of owning our part of the building,” she says, “we would be tenants and rent only the second floor. It was a very insulting proposition and we said no.” The meeting never happened.

“I respect their project,” says Andrieux. “I was a co-founder of Collectif 7 à Nous, I was its president for three years, and I made the deal with Vincent Chiara.

“We don’t need approval by Collectif 7 à Nous,” she says. “The contract is very clear, there’s no ambiguity.”

The former allies in the fight to save Batiment 7 both say that they’re open to further talks, although a resolution of the current impasse may be painful for one or both.

7 Ë NOUS/Batiment 7

Sévigny, however, says that his group intends to defend its grass-roots principles. “I think that [Le Rail] is a cultural project whose general philosophy is close to that of the capitalist elite in Montreal,” he says. “We want to develop something very close to the local community, not the business community.”

Andrieux says that QÉ’s board is reviewing its options, including legal action. C7N, however, has possession, and has not, in the past, shied away from squatting as a negotiating tool. It’s still in fighting mode, in part because it wants to develop a community farm and an entrance to its proposed daycare, near a space where Groupe Mach plans to build what activists call a “wall of condos.” C7N published an open letter to Montreal mayor Valérie Plante in May, asking that she intervene.

The former allies in the fight to save Bâtiment 7 both say that they’re open to further talks, although a resolution of the current impasse may be painful for one or both. “It’s a pity,” said Andrieux. “It was so clear, and we were so close, at the beginning.”

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Ice sheets, pool, arts centre identified in Kamloops draft master rec plan – Kamloops This Week

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The City of Kamloops should consider building a performing-arts centre, a new pool facility and a trio of ice rinks in the future.

On Tuesday, city council was given an update on its new recreation master plan being drafted by consultant RC Strategies.

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A non-profit society is working with arts groups and the community to advance the arts centre project, with tasks identified: developing a new business case, communications strategy, enlisting community support through a membership drive, providing input into design of the project and fundraising.

Consultant Stephen Slawuta of RC Strategies said the city should continue to explore the viability of an arts centre.

“See where it leads and move forward based on the directive of that business case initiative,” he said.

An arts centre was identified as a top priority following community input in the draft plan, Slawuta said.

He added that visits to city pools has been increasing over the past four years.

While RC found the city does a good job providing most aquatic services, leisure aquatic activities was identified as a gap area.

The master plan suggests exploring adding another indoor aquatics facility with leisure activities as the focus and taking a deeper dive into details of such a development such as whether the pool should be a standalone or multi-use facility, costs, impacts on other city pools and a location in an area of the city where this type of service is lacking.

When it comes to ice rinks in Kamloops, Slawuta said RC’s investigation into usage suggests their are some challenges.

“In this case, your facilities are at or over capacity and that would suggest there is a need to increase the provision of ice,” he said, noting the city will need to invest in upgrading its existing ice rinks over time.

Slawuta said RC’s analysis shows bringing the city’s prime time ice usage — evening and weekend hours between September and March — down to 85 per cent from the current 100 per cent would require at least three more sheets.

“And 85 per cent prime time utilization is still a very high level of utilization, but we think that is a reasonable target,” he said.

The master plan suggests adding one or two new ice rinks in the next three to seven years, and another one or two sheets in seven to 12 years.

In the medium term, the plan suggests exploring adding more indoor dry floor field space when considering building any arenas or aquatics facilities, Slawuta said.

In the short term, the plan recommends continued engagement with the school district to ensure community access to those facilities.

Slawuta said the city should continue to monitor usage at spirts fields and ball diamonds and focus on quality over quantity of those spaces.

On a case-by-case basis, the city should explore its opportunities to make improvements and enhancements to those facilities such as adding washroom, seating and improving playing surfaces.

As for the city’s two curling rinks, Slawuta suggested the city continue to support those operations as long as they are viable.

“At some point, it’s likely something is going to call viability into question,” Slawuta said, noting possibilities such as a drop in participation or a major repair of one of the city’s curling facilities.

If and when this happens, Slawuta said, it would be prudent to discuss consolidating the clubs and retrofit one of the two facilities for a different, dry floor surface sport.

The master plan recommends the city more closely monitor its court spaces to determine if sports like tennis and pickle ball are in high demand and require further study, Slawuta said.

Indoor play spaces were also looked at, Slawuta said, noting those spaces should be considered when exploring future development and multi-use facilities.

The city should consider ensuring its existing recreational infrastructure is sustained before contemplating new development, Slawuta said.

Multi-use spaces should be prioritized along with inclusion and access, he said.

Feedback collected on the draft plan will be incorporated into the plan and brought before council for adoption at a later date.

The public will have a chance to give its input on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at Sports Central Lounge in the McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre and on Oct. 3 at Heritage House in Riverside Park, at 100 Lorne St.

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Hibernation Arts hosting poetry reading on Thursday night – OrilliaMatters.Com

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NEWS RELEASES
HIBERNATION ARTS
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Hibernation Arts, a local gallery in the Arts District, is proud to announce the resumption of its Wordsmith Series, with a poetry reading by Dave Armishaw and Josh Poitras on Thursday, Sept. 19 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

These two local poets have markedly different styles which actually complement each other. The Wordsmith Series started last winter, but took a hiatus over the summer.

This series will resume one evening a month until winter sets in, at which time the readings will be presented one Sunday afternoon a month. The $10 admission includes light refreshments, and the poets will have some of their work for sale.

This is a good opportunity to listen to poetry in an intimate environment enjoyed by both listeners and poets.

Hibernation Arts is also proud to announce the first of its house concerts with Sean Patrick and Darrin Davis, to take place on Thursday, Sept. 26 from 7 to 9 p.m.

The music will be unplugged or minimally amplified, so it is a good opportunity to listen to music in an intimate environment enjoyed by both listeners and musicians.

These concerts will be presented once or twice a month. The $20 admission includes light refreshments. Hibernation Arts is at 7 Peter St. S. in the Orillia Arts District.

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Love the arts in New West? Here's how you can help – The Record (New Westminster)

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Love the arts community in New Westminster? Have some time to lend a hand?

The Arts Council of New Westminster is looking for volunteers to help out with a number of upcoming events. Among them:

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RiverFest Pop Up Exhibition:

A reception attendant and bartender are needed to help out on Wednesday, Sept. 18 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Fraser River Discovery Centre, at the opening reception for this exhibition featuring the work of nine local artists.

On Thursday, Sept. 19, gallery attendants are needed to help supervise the artwork between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., or 1 and 4 p.m.

  

Culture Forward New West:  

On Saturday, Sept. 28, an outreach ambassador is needed to work from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the fourth floor at Anvil Centre. You can share your stories and your passion for the arts.

 

Gallery attendants:

Volunteers are needed on an ongoing basis to help at The Gallery at Queen’s Park from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays or Sundays. You can volunteer on either day, once every two weeks. Volunteers are needed to help ensure the gallery can stay open on weekends.

 

Email info@acnw.ca for information or to volunteer.

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