UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a statement sent to Global News from the city of Montreal on Nov. 20.
Ludmila Zoueva loves to work outdoors. That’s why, a year ago, she bought Marché aux fleurs du Square Phillips, a 30-year-old flower shop at Phillips Square in downtown Montreal, after working there for just three years.
She was looking forward to the city’s plan to revitalize the square. That project is part of a larger plan to completely redo Ste-Catherine Street West, with construction set to begin in January.
Zoueva says she contacted the Ville-Marie borough to confirm her kiosk wouldn’t be demolished as part of the plans for the square.
“They said to me, ‘Yes, you are in the plans,'” she said. “‘You can go check our website. Check on the Square Phillips plan.'”
The plan was to renovate the two kiosks in the square — hers and that of Stéphanie Voghell, who sells maple products. Both were supposed to be made bigger, more client-friendly and suitable for year-round operation.
But two days ago, both business owners received a letter they didn’t expect.
“Without reasons, they just say, ‘After the renovations of the Square Phillips, there’s not going to be any markets anymore.’
“We’ve been here for 30 years and they have the audacity to ask us to leave!”
They were told in the letter that the borough wants them gone by Dec. 31.
Regulars, like Jennifer McRae, who works at a hotel in the area, say the two kiosks add vitality to the area.
“A lot of tourists come here and we often do business with them too,” she said. “I think it’s unfortunate.”
Yves Morrier, who also works in the area and regularly buys sweets at Voghell’s kiosks, is equally baffled.
“They are a huge plus to the local environment — for the people living, working and being here every day — as well as for the tourists,” he said. “I really don’t get what’s going on.”
Zoueva and Voghell have started a campaign to save the two kiosks, including a petition that since Tuesday has gathered over 400 names.
They’re also hoping that new mayor Valérie Plante will step in to save them.
“In her campaign she is really for the people and she was really talking for the quartier, the life of the quartier,” Zoueva said. “And, here it is!”
In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for the City of Montreal said the leases of the two kiosks were scheduled to expire at the end of 2017.
However, the leases were recently extended until the end of 2018, wherein the Ville-Marie borough will evaluate the commercial purposes of the public square.