NDG residents urge borough to keep its buildings
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 10 juin 2010
Recommendations to close and sell municipal and historic buildings in eastern NDG have many citizens concerned and organizing. The possibility of losing the Empress Cultural Centre on Sherbrooke St. and the Centre communautaire Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (CCNDG) on Cote St. Antoine Rd. prompted the creation of, respectively, SOS Empress and the Comité citoyen de NDG.
Recommendations for eventual closure or sale were drafted by the borough’s Direction de la culture, des sports, des loisirs et du développement social in its master plan, which was subject to scrutiny at public hearings in Cote des Neiges on May 25 and June 1.
Comité citoyen de NDG
A big issue for the Comité is the relocation of recreational activities to the future NDG sports centre at Benny and Monkland. The new pool and centre will be 2.5 km from the current pool at the CCNDG- this distance, claimed the interviewed members, is too great for families and children to walk.
Alexandre Lambert, Comité member and doctoral candidate in urban planning, suggested that the closure of the CCNDG would contradict the Ville-Centre’s active transportation, proximity and family policies. Lambert would like to see the borough adopt a long-term development strategy that values existing assets as well as new ones. So far, over 1400 residents have signed the Comité’s petition to keep and reinvest in the community centre.
Hints and proposals of the closure and sale of municipal buildings published in local papers prompted the creation of SOS Empress last March. NDG resident and SOS member Arlyle Waring laid out the group’s plan of action: “We have to meet with the [ECC] board; we need to meet with the borough; we need to meet with the community; and we need to meet with the Corporation de développement économique et communautaire. The will in the community is there and there seems to be will among [ECC] board members and in the borough, so it’s only a matter of coming together.” Members of SOS Empress planned on attending the June 7 borough council meeting.
An administrator “caught between two fires”
On the issue of walkability raised by the Comité, he remarked that the borough cannot build pools and centres every few blocks. In addition to the 8 million dollars needed to bring the CCNDG back to its original 1930s state, another annual sum of 700,000-800,000 dollars would be needed to keep the centre running. “Are all NDG residents ready to invest $8,000,000 so that these residents [around the CCNDG] don’t have to walk more than 0.2 km to go to the pool?” asked Bergeron. The location of the future NDG sports and cultural centres at Benny and Monkland is meant to satisfy the needs of residents in the district’s western and eastern parts, asserted the director.
On the Empress, he argues that “it’s been closed for 20 years. [The borough] didn’t close it. $200,000 [referring to the borough’s 2008 grant to repair the roof] later and the community brought us nowhere. We can be accused of not resuscitating it, but not of closing it.”
In the end Bergeron observed that “Mine is an administrative opinion. There is a whole other political logic, so if I’m told to do something, I’ll do it.”