Montreal wants to demolish a set of buildings from the end of the 19th century and hopes to save another, in two files where heritage issues are confronted with security imperatives.

These buildings are all in poor condition, but could have completely different fates.

The City went to court last winter to force the demolition of a building complex dating from 1875 located at the corner of Viger and Saint-Hubert streets, on the borders of the Latin Quarter and Old Montreal. A hotel had occupied them for several decades.

These buildings are unstable and in danger of collapsing, city lawyers said, trying to obtain an injunction ordering their demolition. The owner of the buildings since 2020, a numbered company owned by real estate developer and broker Kevin Hazout, agreed with the municipal prosecutors. He has wanted to build a “replacement project” there since at least 2021.

Only the former owner and current resident of the premises, a man named Jayantilal Modi, partially opposed it, requesting the safeguarding of the part of the property complex located rue Viger. Some engineering reports also indicated that this part of the whole would be preservable. Other reports condemned her.

In a decision rendered last week, Judge Katheryne A. Desfossés agreed with the City and Mr. Hazout, not without expressing reservations.

“The [rue] Viger building may be structurally viable, but at what cost? asked the judge, pointing out that Mr. Hazout’s company said it was financially unable to pay for the maintenance work on this building.

Robert Beaudry, elected head of urban planning at the City of Montreal, knows the file well. These buildings are located in its electoral district.

“To see that due to poor maintenance, we lose these buildings, it’s absolutely sad,” he said in a telephone interview. He directly blames the previous owner for the deteriorating condition.

For Héritage Montréal, these announced demolitions raise important questions. The buildings form “a whole which, despite a lack of long-standing care, contributes to the authentic surroundings of Old Montreal and more particularly of Square Viger”, said its spokesperson Dinu Bumbaru. “Do we not have engineers capable of consolidating these buildings and the means to bring about their rehabilitation? »

“The Court ruled in favor of the City, which we supported in its request to demolish buildings deemed to be a safety hazard,” Kevin Hazout’s company said in an emailed statement. We will soon file the demolition plan ordered by the Court. After issuance of the permit, we will proceed with the demolition of the dangerous buildings within 45 days, as provided for in the judgment. »

The Superior Court was critical of the company, indicating that it had “the distinct impression that [it] does not have clean hands” in this case. She has still not paid the bulk of the purchase price for the property to Mr. Modi, even though she bought it without legal warranty.

Conversely, the City will try to prevent the demolition of the Jaeger building, whose instability has forced the closure of Sainte-Catherine Street West for nearly three weeks. The building, which dates from the 1880s, is most notable for its neo-Gothic facade built three decades later.

The side wall is in danger of collapsing and taking the facade with it, according to an engineer’s report from late March.

“The building is too dangerous to carry out work, neither inside nor outside nearby,” said André Jude, who represents the interests of the company that owns the building. It is a numbered company owned by billionaire Ben Ashkenazy, a New York real estate magnate.

Mr. Jude said that no final decision was made, but that he did not expect to see the building still standing in six months. “I may have hopes, but that doesn’t mean my hopes are going to come true,” he said.

But Robert Beaudry sees things differently. The elected official indicated that if the first echoes of his engineers are confirmed, Montreal intends to be able to reduce the security zone around the facade and – in the long term – save the building. “That’s our goal,” he said.

“Our first objective is to ensure the safety of the population, that is sine qua non. And the objective at the same time is to work with the [owner] so that there are interventions that are made on the building. »