The Bangles & A Showdown for the Empress?

It seems Sept. 5  is decision day for the old Empress (Cinema V) building in NDG.

The fate of the Egyptian-styled building is probably the most controversial item on the agenda of this Wednesday’s Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough council meeting.

If news reports are correct, a majority of the borough’s politicos will likely choose a redevelopment plan put forward by Cinema N.D.G. over another project proposed by the Empress Cultural Centre.

Cinema N.D.G. apparently has found an anchor tenant to support its project – the Caisse Desjardins. The Montreal Gazette quotes NDG district councillor Peter McQueen as saying the Caisse (presumably a Caisse populaire branch) would take up half the space on the building’s ground floor (retail outlets would take up the remaining space) and rent money from the Caisse would finance five cinema screening rooms on the second floor.

In contrast, the only other “contestant” for redeveloping the building, the Empress Cultural Centre, proposed a vastly different Empress. Were it to happen, the Empress Analog Institute would have highlighted culture, including music performances, special events for the local community (and the wider community of Montreal) and film programming through a Film Institute. The Empress Kitchen/cafe/bar was to be a social economy business with a “strong social mission,” a restaurant serving locally sourced ingredients, a cafe-bar offering a variety of Quebec microbrews. The Empress Kitchen was to have a rooftop garden terrace that could be used for anything from wedding receptions to organic gardening workshops. Artists’ lofts on the upper floors were part of this proposed plan.

I have no idea what’s been happening behind the scenes but I do find it strange the Caisse Desjardins is now in the picture and tied to the Cinema N.D.G. proposal. Years back when CDN-NDG borough mayor Michael Applebaum created a community centre for the St. Raymond section of NDG, he made a deal with the Caisse Desjardins. In that instance the Caisse was closing down its branch and heading for another section of NDG.  Applebaum successfully convinced the Caisse to leave some services at the centre  for people living in the area after the branch closed.

Weird too is that the borough required non-profit groups “bidding” to develop the Empress to highlight culture and community in their proposals. Right now it’s hard to tell what the Cinema N.D.G. project will do in terms of culture.

The situation has got some NDG folks upset. Fittingly they’re going to make their voices heard in the most dramatic way possible.

Tomorrow (Sept. 3)  at 1 p.m a group called Friends of the Empress is holding a flash mob (for details, check out Richard Burnett’s Pop Tart column)  in front of the Empress to the tune of the Bangles’ song “Walk like an Egyptian.”  Expect some songs from the Rocky Horror Picture Show on the playlist as well.

The invite says:

“Let’s send a strong message reminding our elected officials, and all possible partners in this large-scale local development, that culture and  community must be at the heart of this project, not commerce. Flashy costumes encouraged (think 1980s dance-hall meets ancient Egypt) This event is open to everyone!”


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