Hampstead residents team up to fight demolition of rental apartments

A Hampstead architect who lives near twin apartment buildings on Côte-Saint-Luc Road slated for demolition says he had no idea about a proposed ten-storey apartment block planned for the site until panicked tenants ran up to his door, asking him for help fighting the project.

Martin Leblanc agreed: he launched a petition against the demolition and has collected 90 signatures so far. 

He said he was surprised to find out most neighbours to whom he presented the petition had no knowledge of the project. 

"The fact that nobody knows speaks volumes," he said. 

Leblanc said the development would change the area's footprint irrevocably and ruin its old-fashioned charm. 

Jaela Bernstein/CBC

"I think it opens the door to radical change in how Hampstead is perceived today," he said. "This is a garden city. This is a beautiful city, and doing those kinds of nonsense developments does not fit with the initial vision." 

Leblanc is concerned that if the new development goes ahead, it would cast a long shadow, blocking out its neighbours' sunlight. He is also worried the new buildings would increase traffic in the area, increasing noise levels and reducing available street parking. 

"It's a very strange direction for the city of Hampstead to go," he said.

Committee approves demolition

Hampstead's town council voted three-to-two against the planned development Monday evening.

But with one councillor, Harvey Shaffer, absent from the meeting, Mayor William Steinberg vetoed that decision, calling for another vote on the project when the entire council is present at the next council meeting on Aug. 5.

A consultation meeting on the proposed development, also set for Monday, was cancelled because of Steinberg's veto.

The town's demolition committee approved the building's demolition, on the condition the development project is approved. 

Citizens who are against the project can try to halt the demolition in two ways:

  • Citizens have 30 days to send a letter to the town clerk, asking for a review of the decision. The town council is compelled to review the decision, even if it receives a single letter.  
  • Citizens can also open a petition. They will have eight days to gather 12 signatures against the demolition from people within the zones affected in order to start a register. If enough eligible voters sign that register, Hampstead's town council will either hold a referendum or cancel the demolition outright.

'Generous and reasonable offer'

The three-storey brick buildings on Côte-Saint-Luc Road house 26 rental apartments, and many of the tenants have lived there for decades.

Patrick Demers has only lived in the apartment building for just over a year, but he said he fell in love with the building as soon as he saw it. He wants to stay and is ready to fight to do that.

"I'm forced to move from a place that is good for me," said Demers.

Jaela Bernstein/CBC

If the demolition is approved, the developers of the new complex are ready to provide the tenants with the equivalent of three months' rent as compensation — but Demers said that isn't enough "to absorb the pain, to absorb the higher costs we're going to face, to absorb the stress."

"We think it's a generous and reasonable offer, above the legal requirement," said Jonathan Goldbloom, a communications consultant who represents the landlord, a numbered company whose principal shareholder is Toronto real estate executive Mitchell Abrahams.

If the demolition is approved, residents will have until November 2020 to leave the building. They will receive a moving allowance of $1,000, and residents who have lived there for more than 10 years will receive an additional $2,000 compensation. 

The developers plan to set up a database where tenants can look for new housing and set aside five of the new apartments as affordable housing. It plans to offer those apartments to current tenants for rent at 15 per cent below market value, on a seniority basis. 

Hampstead town clerk Pierre Tapp urges residents to listen to the proposal at tonight's meeting. He said that many rumours about the project have been circulating in the borough, and tonight's presentation will clear all of that up.