Facing Urban Renewal, Montreal's Red-Light District Gathers Defenders

<p>City officials in Montreal want to clean up its red-light district, targeting the notoriously X-rated area as the first site for urban renewal in the city. But many say the area's heritage and soul are worth preserving.</p>
April 9, 2007, 12pm PDT | Nate Berg
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"The streets form a gateway to Montreal's legendary lower Main, a seedy, neon-lit strip known for activities that range from mainstream to outright illegal."

"Now, city officials have the strip earmarked for a makeover. The city has just cleared a legal hurdle to expropriate a building at the intersection that houses a peep show and other "adult" businesses. It wants to demolish the property and replace it with a $20-million cultural centre sheathed in glass and lights, a move the city hopes will take some of the XXX out of Montreal's traditional red-light district and help launch a reborn entertainment district in its place."

"'It will create an irreversible élan not just for culture, but the whole area,' said Benoit Labonté, mayor of Montreal's downtown Ville Marie borough. 'It will be the beginning of a very big phase of urban renewal.'"

"Dinu Bumbaru of Heritage Montreal says city planners have to be careful they don't throw out the baby with their urban-renewal bathwater."

"'St. Laurent is one of the most significant heritage streets in the city. It's a sinful place, but it's a soulful place too,' Mr. Bumbaru said. 'We run a risk of sanitizing it.'"

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Published on Monday, April 9, 2007 in The Globe and Mail
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