Montreal's Ville-Marie borough held a public hearing yesterday to discuss Agrikol, the proposed project from Arcade Fire's Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, and the Toronto restaurateurs behind The Black Hoof, Rhum Corner, and Cocktail Bar. The goal: present the permit exceptions, or derogations, requested by Agrikol's principals for the multi-faceted project on Amherst—which includes a restaurant, café-terrasse, show venue, and small grocery store—and to take questions and hear concerns from citizens. About 25 Ville-Marie residents, and a few media types, were in attendance—way above norm for an average borough session of this type, affirmed councillor Steve Shanahan.
Shanhanan and borough representatives fielded about a dozen questions, most from residents who live next to, or behind, the site, currently under construction, at 1836-1844 Amherst. A mother, whose apartment is directly adjacent to Agrikol, approached the microphone with her four-month-old baby and asked about the city's noise level restrictions. Agrikol will not have a bar permit, only a license to operate a restaurant with alcohol, was the response. Moreover, the owners will have to adhere to maximum decibel levels of 55db outside the establishment, and 40db from inside neighbours' residences.
A man whose rue Saint-Timothée balcony overlooks Agrikol's proposed 75-square-metre, 52-seat terrasse, asked the borough representatives if the property's alley-side wall could be raised. His request was noted, but he was told that acoustic membranes and vegetation would be added to the wall to cut down on noise. Curiously, the locale's previous tenant, a restaurant named Coo Rouge, operated the backyard terrasse illegally. Agrikol's will be regulated, and as such, a borough rep noted, the principals will presumably have a vested interest in keeping the neighbours happy.
Another resident, who rents an apartment in the triplex that makes up part of the project (at left, above), calmly told Shanahan that she and her roommates feel like they're being forced out by landlord Philip Markowicz to make way for Agrikol's full development. Their lease is up next June. (Others who approached the lectern were testier—one woman had to be reminded multiple times to stick to the hearing's agenda.) Councillor Shanahan and his Ville-Marie borough cohorts took note of all concerns but seem confident that Agrikol's pending permit issues—for things like minimum storey height, proximity to residences, and limits on the development of café-terrasses—will pass muster.
One community organizer, however, vowed to fight the project and gathered signatures from like-minded residents. "We've blocked projects in the borough before," asserted the man. "There's a process to do so. This project, as it's proposed, infringes on the quality of life of residents." Shanahan was asked by a resident after the hearing if he'd want to live next to a commercial establishment like Agrikol. "I actually live with my wife and kids in a part of town where there are a lot of bars and restaurants. That's the wonderful thing about living in a vibrant city like Montreal." A decision could be made on Agrikol's permit derogations as early as October 13.