THIS just happened: A site erected called Pigeon Hole Park by very concerned citizens of shocking information on the land dealings following a Change.org PETITION from a group of residents raising awareness to save the park (close to 3,000 signatures).
Many Montreal residents are not even aware of this tucked away, and awkwardly L shaped slice of green space in Old Montreal. Part of its random ephemeral evolution over the last 20 years is precisely why it is so historical and charming.
Pigeon Hole park is located in the heart and soul of Old Montreal. Nestled between the former Montreal Stock Exchange building, The first Bell building, The Montreal Star, a prime view of The Sun Life building, the Notre-Dame Basilica, and The Telegraph, The Lewis Building and many other Century old gems bordering Notre-Dame / St-Jean / Rue-de-l’hopital / Francois-Xavier.
Not only is this a popular tourist architectural observatory, but it is a local favourite for sunny lunches, relaxation, peaceful dog walks and of course pandemic escape. Before we get into why this little park needs saving. Read on to discover the history of the park.
In July, 1955, Jack Cameroun, president of the Automatic Parking Society announces the acquisition of a franchise that promises to be able to handle 288 cars, by parking them up in a New York Style parking lot concept called Pigeon Hole Parking.
In 1956, Montreal, becomes the first city to have automatic parking, with the promised 288 spots. 2 other Pigeon Hole parking operations go up, one on De la Montagne and the other on Mansfield. Such a high tech and space saving concept right, so what happened? Well, most of the old pigeon-hole systems died because the hydraulic lifts and limited entrances were too slow to handle surges of traffic; mechanical problems (nearly constant) would trap cars inside the garage for three, four days at a time; and any pigeon-hole garage that handled lots of pigeons would need new hydraulics in seven or eight years. Good idea, crummy execution.
They were virtually all demolished for having no heritage charm, as the 50s was not a notable decade for architectural aesthetics, in fact, if anything it was considered by most the world’s ugliest form of Brutalist design. At least the Bonaventure Hotel, which is a Brutalist-futurist 70s building (that used to have late 60s psychedelic carpets inside) has some architectural merit even by today’s standards.
“The Tremblay administration gave land to a fraudster in a prestigious area of Old Montreal, in exchange for land that was worth 10 times less and which was located in Pierrefonds, accused Richard Bergeron, leader of the party of the opposition Project Montreal. Fast Forward to MORE info about the Shady Land Deal that citizens have the right to know about!
In 2009, Pigeon Hole Parking began to slowly evolve into Pigeon Hole Park little by little with city and cultural business investment, concrete blocs were replaced by proper benches. Wild weeds with manicured lawn. Barren sandy soils with nutrient rich earth and baby trees.
By 2019, residents adopted it as a FINALLY proper park effort by the city. However, for the past 19 years, locals, tourists and residents strangely hung out in the industrial lot. There, nature’s most motivated trees sprouted along building edges and wild weeds started to take over gravel and sandy river soil. But something else happened in 2019…. underneath the fancy pots of tropical plants and now-intentional gravel paths – the city did not own the land… The city was beautifying someone else’s land… few knew at the time the dirty secret.
This seemingly beautiful park enjoyed by all good tax payers was sold to a real estate company rumoured to be MONDEV with a firm plan to build by CORSIM within the next 2 years. Besides a sprinkle of old Montreal business owners and residents who literally only got wind of this controversial project a few months ago; and only because they went to the extreme of looking into urban planning at a city level, the public was kept very much in the dark about the project. In dusty nerdy corners of online urban development and real estate forums, the whispers started to travel- yet NO ONE seemed to have the answers.