Chris deWolf has a thoughtful piece on the development and depredations of the Quartier des Spectacles (illustrated with an old photo by yours truly) but I would add a few details to his description. He mentions that an “abandoned building” was turned into a jazz centre, which in a sense is true, but the Blumenthal building and the Wilder Building at 1455 Bleury, facing the Cinema Imperial, were never just abandoned. They used to be vibrant centres of cultural activity.
Dance studios, galleries, small film production companies – early in its career the Montreal Mirror had offices in the Blumenthal, looking across at the Spectrum – as a general-purpose bohemian writer and designer I was inside the Blumenthal often for various reasons and it was a veritable hive, as was the adjoining building on Bleury.
Before Jean Charest was elected in 2003, the PQ had big plans for the Balmoral block. Everything was to be torn down and a brand new giant glass pavilion constructed on the site. All the tenants of those buildings were given marching orders and they all left, but the PQ’s plans collapsed and the buildings were left empty. I believe the Wilder Building remains empty, while the Blumenthal is now the “Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan”.
The Tremblay administration recently passed a motion to support artists but this is closing the proverbial barn door after outright sacks of this kind have taken place, replacing actual working artists with show fronts like 2-22 and the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan.
Chris’s piece is very much worth reading, but this is a piece of the picture I felt compelled to add.