Closing Peel Street bad idea

By P.A. Sévigny on September 2, 2009

Last July, the entire section of Peel Street between Sherbrooke St. and De Maisonneuve Blvd.was closed after a decorative slab of concrete weighing 135 kilos fell out of its 18th floor casement, killing Léa Guilbeault, 33 and permanently injuring her husband Hani Beitinjaneh. After Guilbeault’s body was taken away, city fire and security officials immediately closed the street as a security precaution against further incidents and possible injuries. Six weeks later, Peel Street is still closed and local business people wonder why the Tremblay administration can’t do anything about it.

“I don’t want flowers,” said local business owner Marie-Hélène Chartray. “I want them [the city] to reopen the street.”

Weeks after the accident, Chartray said it’s bad for business and there’s no relief in sight. As the owner-manager of Bleu comme le ciel, a jewellery store located only a few feet north of the city’s fence, Chartray says her business has been reduced by at least 30% since the July tragedy.

“Just look at what happened to the kitchen store on De Maisonneuve after the city tore up the street,” she said. “They’re bankrupt.”

Antoine Brun, the manager of Peel Street’s up-scale Entrecôte St. Jean, said the restaurant business is always a struggle but this was “…truly too much.” After telling us how the city’s parking policies already made it difficult to run a high end restaurant in the city’s downtown core, he added that the restaurant lost another 30% when the city closed the street as a “temporary measure” after the accident.

“We lost a lot of business over the past six weeks,” said Brun. “…and as far as we’re concerned, it’s all because the street was closed to traffic.”

Six weeks later, Peel street is still closed and despite city mayor Gérald Tremblay’s assurance he would try to get things moving, Ville-Marie Borough spokesman Jean-Francois Saulnier said nothing can be done until officials at the RBQ (Régie du Bâtiment du Québec) Québec’s building inspection agency, are satisfied the building will no longer pose a threat to the passing public. 

As a matter of policy, spokesman Martin Girard said the street will remain closed until the RBQ receives an engineer’s report which can attest to the building’s structural integrity and its future safety. But both the city and province are, inexplicably, waiting for the report to be produced by the building’s owners instead of hiring their own independent engineer. Until then, he said it was a question of public security and the street would remain closed. While Girard did say OZRE, the building’s owners, have already hired an engineering firm, both city and RBQ officials were still waiting for the report and nobody knows when the street can once again be opened for business. 

“That’s not good enough,” said Evelyn Lau, the owner and manager of Peel Street’s high end Orchidée en Chine. “If the street is closed, it won’t be long before people begin to think the restaurant is closed.”

When Chartray and other business people saw borough workers begin to place flower pots along the length of the fence facing De Maisonneuve, they all knew the street would probably be closed for at least a few more weeks.  

“This looks bad,” said Chartray. “This looks very bad.”



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