Squaring off over Square St-Louis

The Plateau’s Square St-Louis is getting a half-million-dollar-plus facelift — and that has some locals pissed off.

Construction underway at Square St-Louis. Photos by Louise Makovsky

The Plateau’s Square St-Louis is getting a half-million-dollar-plus facelift — and that has some locals pissed off.

Last April, the City of Montreal and the borough of Plateau-Mont-Royal announced a shared initiative to redo the square and Parc Wilfrid Laurier as part of the programme d’amélioration et des aménagements des parcs (PAAP), launched in 2010.

Since work began, parts of the park have been shuttered to locals, who complain they are being inconvenienced and say the space was fine the way it was, questioning the pricey renos.

“Now we have no park!” says Louise Makovsky, who is used to walking her pets in the square. “On top of that, it was done with no warning. Why did they do that?  It was fine.”

Slated to cost $568,255 (the total cost of the PAAP renos will be $625,000), the Square St-Louis project will remove large sections of asphalt from the park, replacing them with crushed stone. Although construction will stop over the winter months, fencing is likely to stay up until it can be completed in the spring.

Plateau-Mont-Royal spokesperson Michel Tanguay says the project will improve the park, although he acknowledges that the work may inconvenience some.

“I understand not everyone will be happy with having the park closed for construction,” says Tanguay. “But in the end, everyone will be a winner.”

But it’s not just the fact the park will be closed that has some folks bothered. Renaud Lantin is a resident of nearby rehabilitation residence Villa Medica on Sherbrooke. Lantin has been wheelchair-bound since losing his left leg below the knee in a workplace accident some months ago.

Lantin, who says he used to visit the park “two or three times a week,” is worried the new surfacing will make it impossible for him to get around. “It’s going to be a problem for the small wheels in front of my chair,” he explains. “There’s no way I can roll on that. It’s depressing — why didn’t they spare a thought for handicapped people?”

Makovsky says the new surfacing will also make it hard for her to walk her dogs in the park, and other local dog owners share her concern. “It’s going to be a hellhole for us,” she says.

William Raillant-Clark, who frequents the park, echoes Makovsky’s misgivings. “What concerns me about this particular project is that, in general, rules are so strict here that if I want to change a broken window, I have to go down to City Hall and get a permit — and yet we have one of the most important heritage sites in Montreal, and in the borough, and there just seems to be no design to this project.”

Spokesperson Tanguay insists the project has been well-planned. And though the park has long been a haven for itinerants and fans of the high life, he insists its coming refurbishment is not a ploy to drive out its less well-heeled visitors.

“That is absolutely not the goal,” he says.  “The park needed remodeling for a long time.”

An April press release from the City acknowledges the park is a heritage “jewel” but says its surfaces and furniture have become uninviting and worn, and can no longer meet the needs of the community.

But those interviewed for this article argue that the park was just fine the way it was and question the cost of the project.

“It’s a beautiful space, and I don’t understand why this city is tinkering with it,” says Raillant-Clark. “Why is this city is spending half a million dollars on something that doesn’t appear to need fixing?” ■

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