Sunday, September 16, 2007

Article about how Verdun has changed.

Here's a recent article about Verdun. You'll note that one of the top guy says they're thinking about closing down the Verdun Auditorium to make it a convention center.

Borough in bloom
Concerted efforts of long-time residents and more recent transplants have helped buff away Verdun's dodgier side
Published: Thursday, September 06

The scraggly, weed-covered lawn of the neighbouring Notre Dame de Lourdes Church at Verdun and Fourth Aves. never impressed resident Claire Garneau. She envisioned a magnificent park and started mobilizing.

"I've lived in Verdun for all of my 52 years and felt sad about the state of that land. People were hesitant to do anything to turn it into a park. They said it would just attract drug addicts. All sorts of people were against it," says Garneau.

After six years of holding fundraising plays and concerts, hitting up businesses and government, as well as countless blisters resulting from endless volunteer landscaping work, the park has officially opened its doors as an urban oasis amid the oft-maligned avenues of Verdun.

"It's amazing to see the changes, and the respect has followed. People are proud of the place," Garneau says. "They sit in the garden, they read books, eat their lunch there and toss out their garbage afterwards. The people who were against the park aren't against it any more."

The park is one of countless small initiatives that has combined to transform the southwest riverside borough of Verdun. The area, once synonymous in many minds with welfare and dilapidation, has seen government assistance rates fall to eight per cent, about half the rate of 1994, while property values in many parts have quadrupled since the late 1990s.

Although the Verdun butterfly might look like it suddenly busted out from a cocoon, the changes are the result of 15 years of snail-like progress, according to Roger Cadieux. In 1991 the veteran physician traded hats for a job leading economic community development as the head of the Economic Forum of Verdun, which has 240 dues-paying members.

"Every year citizens and businesses start little projects, small renovations - we've had about 150 projects a year for 15 years and we supported them and published tributes to them. You can really see the changes have added up," he says.

When he set up his medical clinic in Verdun in the 1960s, Cadieux got an eyeful of social problems that plagued the area. "We'd see young pregnant girls having problems raising their children. And for a time the welfare was much too high - people saw it as an old-age pension that they could get early. I saw people with no future or hope."

Verdun was full of families of workers at GE and Sherwin-Williams. As the jobs went, they too disappeared. The area lost 10,000 residents in the 1990s, leaving approximately 60,000 today.

So the area ditched its industrial image and went green. The sprucing up of Verdun relied heavily on the waterfront, which was jazzed up with trees and bike paths. "I'm lucky enough to live on LaSalle Blvd.; 40 years ago I had no idea I'd be able to put a sailboat in front. The waterfront is Verdun's great natural resource," says Cadieux.

But like many Verduners, Cadieux admits that the city hasn't fully shed its bingo, welfare and hot-dog persona. "We did a focus group of about 60 new arrivals and noticed that a lot of their ideas about Verdun are quite negative."

The borough is roughly divided into three areas: Nuns' Island, which has a population of 16,000; the wealthier area west of the avenues; and then downtown, or east Verdun, which has the highest level of poverty in the area.

Another veteran of Verdun's slow march forward is Verdun's development commissioner, Alain Laroche, who was lured away from a journalism career in St. Laurent in the early 1990s. Laroche offers frequent bus tours to new residents, where he points out how a modest cottage in Crawford Park sold for $300,000. But he glosses over the ongoing challenge of Verdun's empty storefronts, a blight partially tackled by zoning that requires almost all empty stores to revert to residential except for on Wellington and de L'Église.

Laroche also credits an influx of Plateau yuppies for the turnaround. "Developers started advertising on the Plateau, pointing out that people can buy an 850-square-foot condo here for about $160,000. It's as cheap to own here as it is to rent on the Plateau. Once they started coming, it really snowballed."

But the fast-paced gentrification is a challenge to Verdun's traditional social mix, which includes a working-class population. "We try to buy property to build cooperatives to find a place for them, but developers are always snapping them up first," Laroche says.

Much has changed, but Laroche is visualizing far more. Some of the next stages of evolution he visualizes include having the four top floors of the city parking lot turned into boutiques, hotels and restaurants. The Verdun auditorium - which costs the administration nearly a million dollars a year to operate - could also be made into a conference centre, and there could also one day be a bridge along Galt to Nuns' Island.


les__f MSN said...

Hi  Megaforce,...Yes I read that article too,.I posted it in another thread,but I didn't get the idea that they will be changing the Aud into a Conference Center ,.and losing the rink ,.I sort of thought of it as more of as well as the rink ??  They could utilise the facility,a little mor e often,.but I hope they don't change or remove the Auditorium altogether in favour of a Conference Center only,....  I do think a bridge straight across form Galt to Nuns Island would be a good idea though,.......(and probably will happen one day,.it's a relatively short span these days,........  I would like to see them remove that rather ugly siding (looks like an aluminum addition to the front of the Aud,.......and I would think a 'restored ' old frontage of the original Aud,would look far better,...and could easily accomodate a nice more modern building added to it,.and built to have the same ,'retro' type of look................  a character style building ,.instead of something just Steel & Glass,...............   A 'Real' Verdun building ,should reflect the 'real Verdun People' .......who as we know all have 'Character' hahahahahha                     Thanks for bringing back up ,........                                       Have Fun & Remember Verdun

guy5479 MSN said...

Les, Did you know that there are 2 rinks at the Auditorium, another one was added on the left side called the Denis Savard rink and maybe this is the one they want to convert to a conference center. I already atttended a kind of fair about 3 years ago at that rink during the off season where Verdunites sold their wares. Our own society had a "kiosque". Guy

les__f MSN said...

No Guy5479,.......  I didn't know the two were connected,.........but I do seem to Remember something about a rink being named after Denis Savard,.I never put it together that there was another separate rink at the Auditorium,,,........Now I can see where the expansion & addition of a Conference Centre.....would be feasable................ Funny with all the great Hockey Names to come out of the Montreal area,.that a rink would be named after a guy who (Unfortunately for him ) spent most of his carrer playing for the Chicago Black Hawks,......... If it wasn't for Jacques Demers ,endorsing Denis's trade to the HAbs,..then he wouldn't have enjoyed a trip to the Stanley Cup......avec Les Canadiens de Montreal,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,   and We Habs fans were very happy to get him,at the time.................                                         HF&RV

guy5479 MSN said...

Les, Re your message no. 4: Denis Savard was born in Pointe Gatineau Qc. and played 3 seasons with the Montreal Juniors at the beginning of his career in seasons 1977-78, 1978-79 and 1979-80 and most of his remaining carrer he played for the Chicago as you pointed out. There is also Jean Savard who was born in Verdun and played foor the Montreal Red-White-Blue in season 1974-75. He played for various other teams including one season in 1977-78 with Chicago. He also played in Europe. I want to do more research on this subject as I may have my facts wrong. I think that there should be a Verdun institution named after Scotty Bowman as he is the best Hockey person to originate from Verdun. Guy