For years, for lack of sufficient powers granted to the City, the people of Quebec suffered from the dilapidated state of Maison Pollack, at the entrance to Grande Allée, a few steps from the historic heart of the city.
It breaks your heart to walk past this century-old house, the work of renowned architect René-Pamphile Lemay. Considered an exceptional property thanks to certain details of its brickwork and above all to its monumental colonnade, it is one of the rare examples of the influence of neo-Baroque architecture in domestic architecture in Quebec. on the City’s website.
The owner, a businessman from Montreal, did not get the desired zoning change and the house was left in an unacceptable and embarrassing state of disrepair. The City tried on multiple occasions to force him to act, in vain.
Fortunately, the saga ended this year. The house was acquired by the City of Quebec, after a four-year expropriation process. It will make it its new home of diversity, after investments of more than three million dollars.
However, this example, like many others, testifies to the importance of giving more teeth to Cities in order to better protect the heritage of their territory upstream. With the passage of Bill 69, cities can now impose much larger fines on negligent landlords. Acquisition times have also been shortened.
But more must be done, as mayor Régis Labeaume testifies in an open letter published yesterday. Cities lack the means to offset the high restoration costs, and resources to help owners, explains the elected official.
These measures, which are rightly called for, do not, however, remove the responsibilities of the Cities, which must ensure that they do everything in their power to protect heritage.
In his recent annual report, the Auditor General of the City of Quebec noted various gaps – lack of knowledge, follow-up, leadership, and communication problems between the services – which prevent the measures put in place to protect the built heritage. to be fully effective.
Mr. Labeaume recounts many examples of buildings saved by his administration. The fact remains that these shortcomings made it so that questionable demolitions were authorized, obviously irreversible operations, with all the consequences that this entails.
The City must also see to correct these shortcomings and implement all the measures provided for in its Heritage Vision, adopted before the 2017 election.
It is not normal to see buildings of heritage value destroyed because the owner has neglected their maintenance for too long or abandoned them altogether. It is a question of political will, and of shared responsibility between the Cities and the government.