City of Montreal approves the demolition of the York

Montreal’s Urban Development Commission has approved the demolition of the York Theatre. Concordia will now be able to build a new building for its students, but opponents argue that the York is a valuable art deco heritage site.
With no government agency deeming the York Theatre a heritage site, the York will be demolished some time before winter, so that construction of the Quartier Concordia can begin. A nine and twelve storey complex housing the engineering, computer science and fine arts departments will replace the York and the surrounding lot.
“Our purpose is to provide education and research for society. People opposing the demolition are taking the romantic notion of what the York cinema once was. It’s not that building anymore ” said Michael Di Grappa, Concordia’s vice-rector of services. Di Grappa added that those opposing the demolition to have a look at the York’s state of disrepair.
“It’s disturbing. Concordia has always been in the forefront of heritage issues, conservation and the urbanistic avant-garde. With the demolition of the York cinema, Concordia has basically abdicated its own tradition,” said Mile End city councillor, Helen Fotopulos.
According to Di Grappa, Concordia does not see the preservation of an unprotected cinema, with a $4 million price tag for renovation, as its responsibility.
Fotopulos said the proposed demolition faced strong opposition from a number of heritage groups including the Historic Theatres Trust. She added that Concordia, as the York’s owner, could have done more for the last three years to prevent further deterioration. “If it had been maintained you wouldn’t have the same impression. ”
VP internal for the Concordia Student Union (CSU) Laith Marouf, said that the administration does not care.
“I am not too surprised that we have lost a heritage site because the administration only cares about its finances. For the past few years they could have campaigned across Canada for its preservation.”
The York is one of only three streamlined art deco theatres in Canada. Parks Canada, through the work of the Historic Theatres Trust, has declared the other two, Toronto’s Eglinton and Vogue in Vancouver, to be national historic sites.
That Quebec’s Ministry of Culture approved the demolition is good enough for Di Grappa. “The facts speak for themselves. Authorities have said it’s not worthy of preservation.”
Fotopulos isn’t satisfied with the preservation efforts of the Ministry of Culture. “The ministry was more reactive than proactive.” She is hopeful the 2002 megacity elections will see a change in the city mandate towards heritage sites.
Additional reporting by Diana Thibeault

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