I have a story in today’s Gazette about the crumbling Seville Theatre and the ghost block it sits on. Here’s the top of the article:
The outer limits of downtown
Andy Riga, The Gazette
The strip of Ste. Catherine St. W. was once alive with nightlife, full of Montrealers heading for Canadiens games at the Forum, movies or shows at the Seville Theatre, and meals and cocktails at restaurants and bars.
These days, the only nightlife involves drugged and drunken homeless people, squatters sleeping in squalid conditions, rats gathering in abandoned buildings, and pigeons roosting on exposed beams in the gutted, decrepit Seville, oblivious to its status as a heritage building.
This week, the last tenant, the Bombay Palace restaurant, moved out, making the block on the north side of Ste. Catherine, between Lambert-Closse and Chomedey Sts., a dead zone, a black hole, a ghost block.
The Seville closed in 1985 and the Canadiens moved out of the Forum in 1996, but some experts say the descent that turned the entire city block on Montreal’s major commercial thoroughfare into a quasi-slum began long before the closures.
The city now says a developer wants to buy the block and transform it into privately run student housing that would help revive nearby businesses.
Montrealers can be forgiven for being skeptical. Previous plans – for retail outlets, office space, apartments, condominiums, even a mixed-use environmentally friendly complex – have fallen through.
Claridge Properties Ltd., the company that in 2002 bought the entire block for $10 million, won’t disclose its plans. The company is owned by a branch of the Bronfman family, relatives of Montreal heritage activist Phyllis Lambert, founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, located four blocks from the Seville.
Click here for the full version. You’ll find a photo gallery here; it features archival photos, as well as pictures taken this week by The Gazette’s John Kenney. I created a Google Map of the area owned by Claridge Properties; it includes the theatre, a few other buildings and a parking lot out back.
The current owners had a project planned. It never happened but the project is laid out in this PDF document from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Kristian Gravenor interviewed the architects involved in the aborted project for The Mirror two years ago.
The Urban Lookout blog has some cool pictures of the gutted interior.