News  Green company develops red light district

Montreal’s red-light district, the area east of St. Laurent and Ste. Catherine, is getting cleaned up.

Patrons of the sex shops, insta-checks, and fast food joints may not be able to recognize the area after an eco-friendly mega-complex of socially responsible retail and art moves in.

A non-profit, eco-friendly development company called Technopôle Angus proposed the $110-million plan to renovate the strip.

Technopôle Angus demolished the abandoned building at 222 Ste. Catherine Est, once an erotic video theatre, and has bought several other buildings – notably the nightclub Katacombes and the building that housed the hot dog shop Frites Dorées.

Some occupants are concerned about the impact of gentrification on the historic neighbourhood.

Johnny Zoumboulakis, the owner of Café Cleopatra – who resisted an Angus buy-out – worried how his business, a strip club that stages transvestite shows on its second floor, would fit in with the new neighbourhood.

“Restoration shouldn’t change the look or mentality of the [area],” he said.

While Zoumboulakis was uneasy about the developers’ plan, he recognized that the neighbourhood could benefit from a fresh coat of paint.

“Run-down and boarded-up buildings [need to be] restored,” he said, stressing the importance of “restoration not demolition.”

Jacques-Alain Lavalle, spokesperson for the Ville-Marie borough, said that while the borough supports redevelopment, it values the preservation of Montreal’s history in urban design. His support for the demolition of 222 Ste. Catherine was in accordance with a February 2008 press release from Mayor Tremblay’s office, which deemed the building unsafe and insecure according to an outside engineering consulting firm.

“The building that was torn down at 222 [Ste. Catherine Est] had little value,” Lavalle said.

For its part, Angus has remained tight-lipped on the details of their plan: Ville Marie has only seen preliminary sketches of the project. Susan Methot, press liaison for Technopole Angus, said plans for the redevelopment of the neighbourhood would be revealed in a public assembly at the end of April.

Edson Teixeira, whose family owns the soon-to-be-evicted Frites Dorées, knew few details of Angus’s plan except that, “[the developers] don’t want [any] chain stores or hot dog joints.”

The City’s plans to redevelop the neighbourhood, a project coined Quartier des Spectacles, dates back to the eighties. The project focuses on the square kilometre bounded by City Councillors Street, Berri Street, Sherbrooke Street, and René-Lévesque Boulevard.

The City hopes the Quartier des Spectacles can “enhance existing heritage buildings that are next to modern buildings, while restoring commercial continuity,” according to the development objectives stated on their web site.