On Living in a Gentrifying Neighbourhood, Part 3
March 3, 2012 § 11 Comments
There is an SAQ outlet at the corner of Centre and Charlevoix here in Pointe-Saint-Charles. For those of you non-Quebecers reading this, SAQ is the Société des Alcools du Québec, the state monopoly, the liquor store. The SAQ here in the Pointe is a tiny one, a little boutique, but very busy and the staff there are friendly, helpful, and very knowledgeable. But the SAQ is closing it down as of 30 March this year because, it alleges, the outlet is unprofitable. If that outlet is unprofitable, I am the King of Siam. What is at work here is the SAQ forgetting its mandate as a state monopoly, which is not just to make money hand-over-fist, but to provide a service.
So the people of the Pointe, as mobilised as ever, are protesting the closure of our SAQ outlet. There was a march to our MNA’s office on rue Saint-Jacques yesterday to protest. Why are people protesting? That should seem to be obvious, quite frankly. But the SAQ at the corner of Centre and Charlevoix is in many ways an anchor of the commercial outlets along the next few blocks of Centre. Kitty corner from the SAQ is Restaurant Machiavelli, a relatively upscale eatery. Next door over is Cari Mela, one of the handful of Indian restaurants in the Pointe, and probably the best. Cari Mela, Machiavelli, and the other Indian restaurants along Centre are all bring your own wine. This makes sense, given the SAQ down the block.
Centre has seen some rough times, but in the past few years there has been a slow regeneration and revival. There have been these new Indian restaurants opening. There is a mosque acros the street and up a block. A series of Bengal dépanneurs have popped up. And a series of coffee shops/casse croutes have opened up or have maintained. More recently, a trendy boutique restaurant, Ma Tante Quiche has opened its doors next to a laundromat, and there are rumours a boulangerie is opening up where the old video store was.
Losing an anchor like the SAQ will have serious ramifications for Centre as a commercial zone.
The CBC had a short story on its website yesterday about the protest, which will no doubt come to naught. The story itself is innocuous, but the comments on it are quite simply, jaw-droppingly stupid. Michael59 says the protest was a stupid joke because the next store is a few blocks away. mikeysm notes that the Pointe is a poor neighbourhood. HughNugent reports that most of his family grew up here and their response would be for us to get up off our fat arses and walk to the Atwater Market, where there’s a big SAQ outlet.
These comments reflect the general idea of the Pointe of a neighbourhood of poor folk, collecting welfare, and spending their banlieue money on lottery tickets. But there is obviously more than that. The Pointe is a diverse neighbourhood these days, and the clientele of the SAQ reflects this. There are people of all ethnicities and socio-economic classes at the outlet buying their alcohol, primarily wine, as that’s what dominates the shelves. Atwater Market is a good 15 minute walk from the corner of Centre and Charlevoix. It’s a lot farther away if you live further into the Pointe.
But beyond that, the general gist of these comments is that the people of the Pointe are fat and lazy and because they are such, they shouldn’t be wasting their money on alcohol to start with. I am very curious what the comments would be in response to a story about the closing of a busy SAQ outlet on, say, the Plateau, or the Mile End, or Outremont, or NDG or Westmount. I’d bet they would be asinine comments such as these.
Maybe it is a good thing that the SAQ outlet moves. I’ve watch the neighborhood change for at least 30 years. One less store is not a big deal. There are much bigger problems in this area related to basic quality of housing.
It’s not moving, it’s closing. One less store that brings foot traffic to Centre street is not, I don’t think, a good thing in terms of the economic health of this neighbourhood.
But, yes, housing, especially low income housing, that is a serious and deep problem here. All the housing projects look in precarious situations, and are generally run down. And as more and more of the likes of myself move in, the higher and higher rents gets, unfortunately. Where are the poor going? Most likely Ville Émard and LaSalle.
This is not an ideal solution. This neighbourhood needs to maintain its mixed population. We do not need another Plateau or Mile End down here in the Pointe.
The larger problem here is the abandonment of the working-class and the poor of the Pointe (and St. Henri. See that story about that rental building that the landlord purposefully neglected in order to evict long-term tenants and be forced to demolish it.) The closing of the SAQ is merely an indication of how these neigbourhoods are changing despite the wishes of their residents. The borough would do well to have a long-term low income housing and working class life policy, or else the South-West will turn into one big Griffintown with no schools, parks, or poor people in the Pointe and St. Henri. The working-class will continue to be pushed into Verdun, Ville Emard and Cote St. Paul, until they gentrify too (then where will they go).
Of course, the borough won’t do anything unless we, as residents of the South-West, get out in the streets to demand it. We’ve been fighting a lot of battles lately,(Bain Emard, Monk and Centre SAQ, St. Gabriel and St. John Bosco schools) and I’m afraid that we’re a bit disjointed. We need a more coordinated effort, or despite winning a few battles, we’ll lose the war against the BMWs and ugly condos. Just sayin’…
I dunno, in the Pointe, the opposition is pretty well organised, but then again, the Pointe has long been organised, dating back to the creation of the Clinique Pointe-Saint Charles in the 70s (https://spatialitism.wordpress.com/2011/04/29/community-in-pointe-saint-charles/). In many ways, the Pointe has survived the lean years, and did not become another Griffintown or Saint-Henri due to the fact that the opposition here has been militant and organised, exactly what the simpletons on that CBC article are criticising.
In the end, I seriously doubt the housing projects of the Pointe or Saint-Henri are going anywhere, but I do think the cheap housing is on its way out. There’s too much money to be made from gentrifying one’s property, whether to live in or for rental purposes.
Some of those fights you list, most notably the one for St. Gabriel’s School, seem like they’ve been going on my entire lifetime. And so far, it’s one that’s been won.
The other problem that comes around is with the coming of the yuppies into the Pointe, case in point being the fight against the railyards here and the old train lands down by the Y in the southern part of the Pointe. Used to be that the opposition wanted simply a community centre and space for the community to be built there, and for the CNR and VIA to stop shunting train cars in the middle of the night. Since that part of the Pointe has been almost entirely gentrified, you get the idiot gentrifyers, now demanding that the CNR and VIA stop shunting cars at all and, better yet, to stop running trains on that track.
This kind of NIMBYism is ultimately destructive and will tear apart what community solidarity exists in the Pointe in short order.
As for the SAQ, what I don’t get, really, is that the SAQ is a big hit with the gentrifyers, you can get decent wine there, not dep or grocery store wine, so why the SAQ is attempting to alienate that clientele, I just don’t get.
Me neither…. and it rakes in money hand over fist. It’s not like the rent is expensive on Centre.
The SAQ in recent years has been trying to shepherd we customers into their big stores, like the one at Atwater Market and has been closing stores it claims aren’t profitable, which almost always tend to be smaller, neighbourhood stores, such as the Centre/Charlevoix outlet.
It cannot not be profitable, what the SAQ is doing here is forgetting its mandate as the state monopoly on alcohol and acting more like a private corporation. It’s just plain wrong. If we’re going to have state monopolies, they need to be operated in such a fashion that profit is not the most important thing.
And either way, this store is profitable. It’s a load of BS the SAQ’s selling.
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