After admitting that his twelve-storey office tower planned for the Quartier de Spectacles had to be scaled back to just five floors as well as his company’s fundraising difficulties, Christian Yaccarini, the head of the Angus Development Corporation, lashed out at the city’s public consultation process and the artists trying to save Café Cleopatre from demolition. Now word comes that his company’s deal with the City of Montreal is being investigated by Montreal’s vérificateur général.
Yaccarini’s frustration, as voiced to the Montreal Board of Trade, falls perfectly in line with what we already know about the developer’s attitude toward consultation and independent artists. Back in June 2009 he sent an email to his supporters, urging them to come to a press conference and arguing that “so-called artists” were causing a “veritable psychodrama” at the OCPM meetings in order to protect what is nothing more than “a strip club with video poker machines.”
If Yaccarini had bothered to actually listen to what was said at the meetings, he would have learned that there is much more to the Cleo, namely a vibrant arts scene whose artists don’t want to leave and in some cases have no other place to go (thanks to zoning regulations). He’d also have realized that these artists want development in the area but want to be included in it.
The Tremblay administration also didn’t listen, either to the artists or the decision by its own consultation body. Now there are two reasons for both parties to listen: he court case brought by Café Cleo fighting its expropriation and the investigation.
It makes sense that there should be an investigation. After all, if your firm wants the contract to replace the toilet paper in City Hall, for example, you can bet there’s going to be a bidding war. How could three incredibly pricey building projects on a historic street with huge symbolic significance be simply handed to a handpicked developer (and one with a criminal past at that) without anyone else being given a chance to bid?
Media coverage and a slew of shows and videos (most recently the comedic Demolition in a Box) have helped, too. Unfortunately as Velma Candyass, one of the artists behind these projects told the Montreal Mirror, a lot of the damage to the area has already been done.
Two performance venues and a dance club have moved according to Angus’ wishes, leaving the once booming, then desolate, then booming again area almost desolate once more. In what they claim is an attempt to rebuild an area that sorely needs a makeover, Yaccarini and Tremblay have created the very devastation they claim to want to eliminate.
This begs the question of why Christian Yaccarini feels he is in any position to complain.