“I was on site [Monday] morning to see the dilapidated state of the building, and I used section 76 of the Law on Cultural Heritage to stop work," said Kotto.
Section 76 of the law states that if the ministry perceives a “real threat of significant degradation of a property that may have heritage value, the minister may make an order...directing that work or an activity be terminated” for a period of up to 30 days.
With the suspension, the ministry now has 30 days to complete an assessment of the building, located at 3457 duMusée Avenue in downtown Montreal, and then decide its fate.
Heritage Montreal pleased
The head of Heritage Montreal, DinuBumbaru, calls the minister’s intervention unprecedented, and considers the 30-day demolition suspension a significant gesture.
“It’s very good news...This [assessment] will determine the state and the condition of the building, but also the value of its heritage," said Bumbaru, Heritage Montreal’s policy director.
Officials at Heritage Montreal had a meeting with Quebec’s cultural ministry a few days ago.
“They realized this is right next to the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s in the Square Mile. It’s one of the last piece of the Square Mile that hasn’t been damaged by condo towers in the 1960s and 70s. They’ve taken that seriously,” Bumbaru said.
Since 1986, no one has lived in the home and today, only the facade of the building is left.
Bumbaru, and other heritage activists, accuse the owners of neglecting the building since that time.
“A lot of the attention now has to be put on how to make things happen the right way -- because otherwise we are going to send the message that long-term neglect pays.”
Never a heritage building, owners say
The Sochaczevski family, which owns the mansion, says the building was never listed as a heritage site on any municipal, provincial or federal list.
Michael Sochaczevski, the owner’s son, told CBC that plans to demolish the building have been in the works for years, and he never received any communication from Heritage Montreal — or other government officials — on how to preserve the building.
Just before the holidays, the city of Montreal gave Sochaczevski permission to tear down the 130-year-old building.
Sochaczevski, who was issued a building permit, has plans to build student apartments there.
Workers have already cut down trees for the future project.
Sochaczevski says he will meet with his lawyers Wednesday morning to discuss possible recourse.