Constant noise, clouds of dust and even power failures have become part of a regular work day for those at Le Frigo Vert and the Quebec Public Research Group (QPIRG).
The building that houses the non-profit organizations is under renovation to accommodate the newest set of condominiums being erected all over the downtown area.
“In general, the noise is disruptive and people just come right through the office,” said QPIRG Co-ordinator Marcie Gibson.
The noise and disruptiveness of construction workers is not the only problem faced by the staff of both organizations. Huge clouds of dust have forced the closure of the QPIRG office and Le Frigo Vert on numerous occasions. “It was difficult to breathe,” explained Gibson, who after a mere 20 minutes left the office, as the dust irritated her asthma. “It was completely unbearable,” she said.
Helen Hudson, also a QPIRG co-ordinator, said that although minor repairs were made to the building last winter, major renovations have been in full swing since last September.
The natural food store and the research group have been calling the building at 2130 MacKay home since 1994 and 1989 respectively. Before the start of the fall semester, both were informed by the MK Group, the buildings’ landlord, that the organizations would have to move since the owners were making it a private residence.
Le Frigo Vert has experienced a drop in revenue in recent months. “Not being able to maintain regular hours is really problematic,” explained Zoe Cousineau, a member of the collective.
“The hot water was turned off, which made it hard since we use a kitchen to make our sandwiches,” Cousineau said. “Another time, there was so much dust that we couldn’t even see.”
Both organizations have given the landlord bills for the losses they have incurred, as they had been told they would be compensated. Cousineau and Gibson said neither groups has seen any restitution. The landlord was unavailable for comment by press time.
“The lease runs out at the end of March 2004, but there is a clause which says that the landlord must give us 6 months notice to leave,” Hudson said. As of yet, no official written notice was given to QPIRG, but according to Hudson, “the landlord keeps alluding to it.”
Once construction is complete, QPIRG staff will have to pass through the lobby of the building to reach their office. “The owners feel that our staff and the people that will be living in the building are different, so we have to leave,” said Hudson.
Cousineau explained that Le Frigo Vert on the other hand, would not be asked to move. “The owners feel that the store has a different clientele from that of the condos, but since we have a separate entrance [accessible from outside], it would keep it from being disruptive.”
QPIRG is currently in search of a new space nearby, but have not found anything that would be suitable for their needs. “We’ve had informal conversations with the space and administration committee of the CSU council to find Concordia space, but nothing so far,” said Hudson.
“The landlord has also offered to relocate us to another building they own, but we feel that we cannot make a decision until we know what Le Frigo Vert’s rent will now be. We work in solidarity with them,” Gibson said.
Since the lease is shared by both organizations, if one is asked to leave, the other will have a new one drawn-up. “We don’t want to leave them without a lease and the landlord has still not replied to this,” Gibson added.
For now though, it is a matter of time. “A lot of things are on hold and we’re still playing the waiting game,” said Hudson.