Phillips Square vendors struggle to grasp why they were asked to leave
Photo by Allen McInnis for the Montreal Gazette.

Photo by Allen McInnis for the Montreal Gazette.

When Lioudmila Zoueva bought the flower stand at Phillips Square in the spring of 2017, she thought the city of Montreal’s plans to redevelop a downtown stretch of Ste-Catherine St. W. would only bring improvements to her business.

Instead, Zoueva got a letter last November saying the city would not renew the lease that allows her and another Phillips Square vendor — Stéphanie Voghell, the seller of maple syrup treats — to rent the square’s two kiosks.

“It was promising — and now everything has failed,” Zoueva said.

Initially, the two were told they would be out by the end of 2017. The city later granted them an extension until Dec. 31 of this year.

The decision to remove them came after three years of public consultations in which citizens expressed the wish to “preserve the views” of the square’s Edward VII statue and nearby buildings, including the Bay, Birks and Christ and St. James churches, said city spokesperson Marilyne Laroche Corbeil.

Also brought up during consultations: the desire to create more green space and to reconnect “with the form and historic vocation of the Victorian square” via a garden and public space, she said.

The flower stand has been in Phillips Square for 30 years — the maple stand, 35.

Zoueva worked part time at the flower stand for three years while she earned a bachelor’s degree in art history. When it went up for sale, she decided to go for it because she loved working outside with the flowers — varieties like hibiscus, peace lilies and tiny potted succulents.

Now Zoueva, 24, is looking for a new location. “I thought I was settled, but now I have to restart everything,” she said. 

As for Voghell, when asked what she’ll do with her business, she began to cry. “I’m not thinking about it,” she said.

Both are struggling to understand why they were told throughout the consultation process that they were in the city’s plans — until one day, they weren’t.

The vendors’ story raises questions about public consultations conducted by the city of Montreal and its boroughs, including whether they are effectively communicating what the consultations are about, what the outcomes may be and how much the public’s input influences final decisions.

Read the full story at the Montreal Gazette here.

Darya Marchenkova