Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Verdun back in Style

Looks like Verdun is making a comeback,...the waterfrong t area is Fantastic,..(as is most of Montreal's waterfront),........but this is good news ,when the residents step in & start to turn it around,..Every city has it's 'seedier' side,..but if you let them take over they will,.So this story written by Kridtian Gravenor (in a freelance roll,) for the Gazette,..He lends credit where it is due,..........
Borough in bloom
Concerted efforts of long-time residents and more recent transplants have helped buff away Verdun's dodgier side

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Verdun resident Claire Garneau was instrumental in revitalizing the park of Notre Dame de Lourdes Church, an example of the borough's revival.
Verdun resident Claire Garneau was instrumental in revitalizing the park of Notre Dame de Lourdes Church, an example of the borough's revival.

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.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2007
Seems like there's some great plans for Verdun,..I hope they make it ,.I'd love to see a Verdun alive again with kids playing in the streets,.and people enjoying an ice-cream ,or a Steamie & Fries,.......as they walk down Wellington Street,...or the 'Boardwalk' again ,
Good on Ya Verdun


les__f MSN said...

MaggieMck,...nice choice for a Front Page Photo,..............            that's a great shot ,that anyone from  Verdun would recognize in an instant,......  Thanks Metalman ( Walter) ,for talking it:        Nioce to see that series of granite columns ,and easy to Remember looking down towards a Redtop,.....these were always mental mileage markers ,while walking or riding a bike along the boardwalk,....... also Remember those green pipe railings ,that sat many a Verdun kid or adult for a place to hangout ,....or the odd pirposefull photograph to be taken,..... ( I'll bet we all have had a photo ,an old faded B&W shot,of us or our parents or a family members posing beside the railings ,with the River & Nuns Island in the background:              Yes Thanks for the Memory Prompt                  Have Fun & Remember Verdun

guy5479 MSN said...

Les, Look at my photo album you will see a picture of my family showing the railing and eating  ice cream cones purchased form the Leblancs. Guy  

les__f MSN said...

Yes Guy ,.your album ,did come to mind when I was typing that post,.... \ It seems we really all do have many things in Common,.I have posted ( I think ) photos' from my family album too,.I will try to find them again,.....     photo compliments of Guy's photo album.....................................................................................................              and here's a photo from 'Kitiara736'  family photo album                                                                           Maybe we can start a "Family Photo's on the Boardwalk"                                          album or even a Boardwalk thread where we could  see how many old shots like these we can find...............                                         HF&RV

les__f MSN said...

Here's a shot from MaggieMck's album,......although not right on the boardwalk ,the old familiar Redtop,...is in the background,.......Also look at the same stone pillars & railings forming a fence around the old Cement Downs,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,  this is a graet Verdun photo too !                                    Have Fun & Remember Verdun..............................

les__f MSN said...

I menat ot ad this shot as well from the same photo album,.....(MaggieMck's)                 Love the 'corner store' ,.they don't get any more 'corner ' than that                                                        .....Have Fun & Remember Verdun.......        Now this one is right on the boardwalk,............same alum of MaggieMcks                                                                      HF&RV

les__f MSN said...

How about this one of Phyl & George     .....another addition................. A 'Gaggle of Girls'                                        ...This 'IS'   Verdun Stuff............................   HF&RV

touchy826 MSN said...

Taken  same location , front of pavilion, next to stairs, down to river                       r       This picture taken from same location,  Next to stairs going down to river in front of Pavilion

Attachment: Ron Larman & Bill Butler 1949.jpg

kencm3 MSN said...

Speaking of Gravenor there is a Montreal blog called Coolopolis. Not about Verdun but it covers a lot Montreal history not always found on the front page. Some of you will love it!

Go here- http://coolopolis.blogspot.com/

les__f MSN said...

Yes KenCM3 ,          Coolopolis is an interesting site,.I joined that site some time back, and I've tried to post some of the cool Montreal photo's that they seem to come across, but some disappear if I just direct link them,..well worth checking out that site though,...........we've posted the link before ,and I believe we have a few members here ,who mentioned te site as well:           There's seems to have been some neat Montreal newspapers or weekly's like the Front ,..the Mirror ,......all utilise te efforts of Gravenor as well,....... Intereating character ( and so was his oldman..see Montreal Property deals) ......                                                                                              HF&RV...

kencm3 MSN said...

It is a good site. You can drop the 3MC if you want, Les, like we have known each other about 45 years give or take, heh heh.

les__f MSN said...

Ok Ken..............hahahahah  saves me typing (cause we all know ,my typing isn't the best),,,,,,,,,,,,,,hahahahaha '    One story I like on the Coolpolis site,was the one of Richard Blass ,..I always Remember te photo of old Richard on the front page of the Montreal Matin,.or maybe even the Sunday Express (remember that paper),.  anyway Quebecs Top Cop ( I forget his real name ) but he was known as a Quebec Kojak...........and he was tough,.he was quoted as saying ,after Blass made another of his multiple escapes fron custody,......."We'' ll Get da Bum" ....... a few short days later Mr Blass would escape 'no more' as he lay on his back ,having fallen backwards into a closet after being filled full of holes,as the Qpp were apt to do ,if they had enough of you............hahahahah  They claimed of course that he ( Blass ) had gone for his gun,.I f you check the photo he was' backing into the clothes closet' without his pants even being done up......................hahaha,  this clown deserved it,.but it was a typical QPP deal..........and only those having grown up in Montreal can appreciate that type of .......as they used to report in the papers,when there was gangland killings,,,,,,Usually it was a 'settling of accounts' In this case it was the Cops doing the settling........................hahahahaha                                                                             HF&RV