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Save Ben's!

Posted by Laura / June 14, 2007


The legendary Montreal diner, Ben's, is in the news again. After closing forever in December after a long labor strike, It's on the brink of being sold to a developer who has declared that the building isn't worth anything. Demolition seems imminent.

A protest organized by Pop Montreal and Art Deco Montreal took place at noon today. People walking by stopped for a while to listen to the accordion, violin, and guitar music, and the voices of the speakers: art deco enthusiasts, a former worker's leader, the filmmaker who made the Ben's documentary. “Well, they're tearing down my building,” said an older woman, half to herself, half to the crowd around her. “Are you the owner?” asked a bystander, interested. “No, I just worked there for 13 years,” she replied.


The general mood of the protest was spirited, but contemplative. It seemed like people knew the way these things usually go. I asked Vanya Rose, the event's organizer, what could be done beyond this protest. “Pressure needs to be put on the city,” she answered. They could intervene with a historical designation to save the building. However, later I overheard a member of Art Deco Montreal discussing how the City of Montreal could only protect a facade; to preserve the interior of a building, it was necessary to get provincial designation from Quebec. Does anyone know more about this?

Ideas floated around about different uses for the building. One woman said she could see it as a community center, or alternative space. Of course, more likely, a tall office building could sit atop the diner, utilizing much of its significant space on the ground level as a lobby. Any other ideas from readers?

If you're passionate about streamline architecture and want to save Ben's, the Art Deco website has email addresses and sample text for appeals to City officials about the issue.



Rhiannon Brock / June 14, 2007 at 10:28 pm
Some innovative chef should buy the place and turn it into a kitschy diner. You know, like the original Ben's. But with good food. And non-suicidal waiters.
Bismarck / June 15, 2007 at 10:53 am
Well as we all know montreal is not to good at preserving space. Anyways the locations of this building would make for good Condo development, no?
robert stuart / June 18, 2007 at 03:10 pm
the architect bernard tschumi has built several projects where he has preserved the old street level blgs (and culture) and built the new up above.
maybe this idea could work for the preservers and developer?
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