Is there room for both fun and quiet in Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal?
Amid the commemorative monuments and frozen ponds of the desolate La Fontaine Park, Plateau-Mont-Royal locals provided insight on the rising tension between new and long-time borough residents.
Known for its bohemian vitality and distinct architectural style, the Plateau-Mont-Royal is a hub for Montreal’s thriving arts and entertainment scene. In recent years, the borough evolved from a predominantly working class neighbourhood to a district dominated by upscale restaurants and trendy nightclubs, according to Anita Lavallée, a retired professor who has dwelled in the Plateau for nearly 20 years.
“The Plateau is being taken over by rich, young individuals,” she said. “There is an imbalance among the poorer, veteran residents and the new, bourgeois residents.”
However, according to Lavallée, the very elements that define the Plateau-Mont-Royal will also be its downfall, as the borough’s trendiness represents a source of appeal for young individuals bent on changing the area.
“It’s a whole new city,” said Lavallée. “Artists and students bring something to the table, but they’re tossing us all aside and making it unbearable for us to live here. Thanks to them, [Mont-Royal] street has been reinvented. Old stores have been shut down, upscale clubs have become popular and noise has been as disruptive as ever.”
Noise issues occupy a primary concern for older residents of the Plateau-Mont-Royal. Recently, long-time borough inhabitants expressed displeasure concerning the bombardment of noise emanating from bars, restaurants, clubs, live music venues and other locations serving predominantly younger residents.
At the monthly council meeting in February, concerned citizen Lucie Ruelland called for the implementation of stricter noise regulation by presenting a petition comprised of 141 signatures to borough Mayor Luc Ferrandez.
“We want swift measures to be taken to give us back our rights as borough residents,” said Ruelland while handing the petition to Ferrandez. “We want tranquility, quietude, security and respect of private property.”
Last year, the noise issue came to a head in a standoff between older locals and the Divan Orange, a live music venue dedicated to the support of the underground scene that is managed by young Plateau residents. In a span of two months, the residents living above the venue issued 85 telephone calls to the police, resulting in a total fine of $18,000 for the Divan Orange.
“The establishment was almost forced to shut down,” said 27-year-old Simon Lévesque, who works at the Divan Orange and resides in the Plateau-Mont-Royal. “The venue was in serious danger.”
The live venue endured nearly eight months of complaints and police intervention before eventually paying the frustrated resident $10,000 to relocate. The Divan Orange is still contesting the hefty fines.
“Countless places in the Plateau have also experienced complaints from residents,” commented Lévesque. “Why would you choose to live in a neighbourhood that’s renowned for its noise and busy nightlife? What do you expect?”
“This isn’t youth in revolt, this is older residents being unable to accept that the borough is changing,” said 20-year-old Stephanie Sullivan, a student who is considering moving to the Plateau-Mont-Royal. “Above all, this is gentrification.”
Sullivan said the arrival of younger residents should not be met with hostility, rather, gentrification should be celebrated for its beneficial rejuvenation of the borough. According to Sullivan, through the renovations commissioned by new, young residents, the upkeep of Plateau-Mont-Royal can be maintained.
“I feel attacked by older residents when I come to the Plateau,” said Sullivan. “If older individuals choose to live near downtown Montreal, that’s their problem. They shouldn’t take their annoyance out on the youth through petty complaints.”
While accusations of uptight conservatism and denunciations of disruptive rowdiness run amok in the Plateau-Mont-Royal, some residents predict a harmonious future for the trendy borough.
“New and old Plateau residents all have one thing in common; they love the area,” said 53-year-old François Berthiaume, a barista at local coffeehouse Dudley & Dudley. “That’s why they live here. While the neighbourhood has become flooded with young students, long-time residents and new residents will live peacefully out of a sheer appreciation of the area.”