Plaza Hutchison purchased by local government—set to serve as social housing

After months of social unrest due to evictions served by previous owner of the location, local government picks up the building in bold move in order to help locals

The current state of housing—specifically for renters— in the area of Park Extension has been in question for quite some time, many worried that evictions are on the rise as we’ve reported in the past here at the Park Extension News, and wondering that perhaps this can only get worse.

That is of course was until members of the government recently purchased a building on Hutchison—one that was originally owned by a private investor and you won’t believe what local government is planning to do with it.

An historic building

The sign for the old Johnny Brown shoe shop can still be seen on the façade of the building on Hutchison. It speaks of the old days when shoes—specifically ballet shoes–weren’t shipped in from overseas, but hand-crafted by many shoe makers city-wide (including this writer’s grandfather). Companies like that and of course Angelo Luzio were in high demand before the turn of the century, but have all fallen to time and progression.

The remnants of this building and/or space have been empty since the company closed its doors at that locale and the site has been a sore one at that on the corner of such a busy street. Earlier plans for the building were met with mixed reviews and that’s putting it softly, but news that the government has finally gotten involved has gotten locals excited.

Good news

To say that it’s good news for the community is a definite understatement, but one worth mentioning here, as there are those wary of government involvement at times, but to them we could say that this is certainly a positive turn of events. For those that were worried about gentrification and condos possibly going up, allowing the higher end of the financial spectrum awarded spots in the building, now, with these developments, the lesser-paid and even those that are in need can benefit from the space and as we said, it’s definitely a lot more positive for the community in the end.

In turn, they were at one time destined to become luxury condos, and only a small portion of the community would have benefited from that.

And in the end, the government forced its hand in a way, using its power for good, taking claim of its pre-emptive right to the building and spaces—and specifically that law and/or right gives the city official right to a property over an owner and at market price.

The right price

It has been reported that the city is set to pay 6.5 million dollars for the space, which is considerably higher than the estimated price the building was set at previously. Robert Beaudry, the executive committee member responsible for housing said: “We know that there is a lot of pressure on the price right now for residential land. We don’t have the obligation to buy it. But right now, yes, we pay a little higher than the price we evaluated the building, but the market was ready to put this price on.”

It has also been reported that the city had 60 days to approve the purchase as it stands.

A controversial act by previous owner

The previous owner, who wanted to build condos at the space, actually sent out eviction notices to its tenants, alerting the media that he wanted a building that was considered higher-end, and all with his actions. That, as stated, did not sit well with the locals, nor as it turns out, members of the government.

Rosannie Filato, city councilor for Villeray, stated: “It’s going to allow us to preserve diversity: social diversity, economic diversity, and it’s going to allow, also, residents of Parc-Extension to continue to reside in their borough, in their district.”

Why are rents so high in the area?

Perhaps this is due to the new University of MTL Campus, and that’s exactly what mayor Fumagalli suggests in statements made to the press: “Because of the new campus, it is true that the prices have risen exponentially, and it is harder and harder to find reasonable rents.” This is definitely a reasonable response; we wonder only now that the pandemic hit and construction on the rest of the campus being seriously slowed down, should rents still be as high as they are?

How many units?

More funding is still needed to further proceed with renovations, but they promise about 40 units, which in the end is not a whole lot, but we hope that this project leads to many more like it, as it certainly is needed across the community, and perhaps even a lowering of the rents should probably be thought about, but maybe now we’re dreaming in Technicolor, but you never know.

A few details seem to still be hashed out, but the building will remain as is until the work gets started, and applications can be made—applicability for rights to live in the building will be certainly released by the government in due time, and when it does, we’ll have it for you, folks.