Folky singer-songerwriter Martha Wainwright has opened a café and cultural space in Mile End.
Named Ursa, it takes up residence beneath the offices and headquarters of music festival Pop Montreal, in the space that was formerly chef Danny St-Pierre’s restaurant Petite Maison.
And not only is Wainwright opening a business in the space, she also took the step of purchasing the entire building, a rare move for café owners in the city. The building was listed for sale in the winter (St-Pierre previously owned it), and as CityNews notes, Wainwright wanted to ensure developers wouldn’t snap it up, opening the door to some kind of more corporate entity.
Development and real estate is somewhat contentious in the neighbourhood — between the arrival of chains like Lululemon on St-Viateur Street, as well as landlords hiking the rent on popular community hubs like Le Cagibi (which was forced to move), there’s obvious fears for the neighbourhood losing its character, and Wainwright . In fact, she owns the whole building, so she also becomes the landlord for Pop Montreal, securing that organization’s future in the neighbourhood, too.
Wainwright told the Gazette that the café, in its cozy basement space, will have a retro coffeehouse feel, and be open to all sorts of artistic events, including Ursa Micro, a tiny music festival featuring musicians from Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire, running from June 21 to 23.
According to the Globe & Mail, the space has a main room for performances at the back, and then a foyer section with couches and a bar — it won’t just be a coffee spot, as beer and other drinks will be served. The singer told the Globe that the goal is not to rake in money, but to break even, making something sustainable for locals.
STATUS — Ursa is open at 5589 Avenue du Parc.