A Short History of Sillery’s Maguire Avenue

A Short History of Sillery’s Maguire Avenue

LiQ_Mag_Dec_2014This article first appeared in the December 2014 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.

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By Nadia Hammouda

As early as the mid-19th century, the Maguire Avenue area, known today as the heart of Sillery, was prized by the bourgeoisie and lumber merchants of Québec. For the working class, construction sites were just down the cliff. For the upper class, the panoramic view of the river and its great natural beauty were major attractions.

The installation of a tramway in 1911 increased ties with downtown Québec. The tramway terminal, located directly on the commercial avenue, helped to make Maguire Avenue a focal point of the municipality. In 1950, the village became the suburb of Québec that we know today. In 1980, thanks to revitalisation programs, Maguire Avenue businesses were able to dress up their image. With growing competition from the big shopping malls on Laurier Boulevard, the area decided to create a small-town street atmosphere. Some businesses, like the Roset grocer, the Vaugeois bookstore, and the Caisse Populaire de Sillery have survived for over 50 years thanks to a loyal clientele.

Sillery is an example of the full impact that public transit and the presence of different social classes and generations can have on the urban development of a community. The major Sillery families still live there, and services are still varied and accessible. Parks and green spaces abound. However, this sought-after sector has seen its population get older. The large houses that once held 10 people are now only home to two, and there are a growing number of retirement homes in the area.

LiQ_Mag_Abonnez-vousSince the area around Maguire is not easily affordable for young families or students, the young people who grew up there are moving away. The working population of Sillery is made up of professionals with high salaries. They go from place to place in their cars, eat at trendy downtown Québec restaurants, and shop for groceries in the new big-box stores and power centres. Zoning in the Maguire area does not allow businesses to sell alcohol without food, which does not encourage young people, particularly students from nearby Laval University, to come explore the suburb.
Two dépanneurs on Maguire Avenue have closed their doors, unable to turn a profit. The most recent being the Couche-Tard in February 2014.This speaks volumes on the decline in foot traffic. Also, bus route 16 of the Réseau de Transport de la Capitale, the sole public transport link to Sillery’s Foulon sector near the river, was modified due to lack of users.

However, for several years, many promoters have wanted to buy lotsto build additional apartment buildings, commercial office towers, and condos or city housing projects. Sillery residents are not easy to convince. Last April, residents began a petition against what they termed densification sauvage—densification gone wild. Three hundred and fifty citizens signed it within a week. Opposition signs have also sprouted on several front lawns. It is also true that promoters have become increasingly insistent, going so far as to go door-to-door to convince residents to sell. Mayor Régis Labeaume wants the development of concrete projects and never hesitates to let his position be known during City Council meetings, “Some people don’t want anything to change. Change is not easy, but eventually, it needs to be accepted. That’s how it is to live in a community,” Labeaume has said.

François Joyet, former president and founder of the Commercial Development Society (SDC) of the Maguire Axis, highlights the importance of the Commercial Development Society.

“By giving (ourselves) a permanent structure in the form of an SDC, we’ll now be able to better plan and coordinate our actions while maintaining a just balance between business owners’ and residents’ expectations,” Joyet explains. “All this without losing sight of the fact that the primary vocation of our commercial artery remains to offer local services that are conveniently accessible for residents.” Despite the efforts of the SDC and its 110 businesses, obstacles keep cropping up. Among other things, the Sillery Historical Heritage Conservation Committee and other citizens’ groups of the district are opposed to various development projects proposed by the SDC or the mayor.

“In Vieux-Québec, citizens left the historical district. Is that what we want? That’s where we’re headed, because there isn’t a project able to see the light of day. How will we attract young families?” worries Annie Verrault, former General Director of the Maguire SDC. According to her, life in Sillery is threatened by certain community groups that oppose any development. “People are getting older, but they don’t want to leave because it’s been their district for 40, 50 years. There’s always a tree to protect, there’s always something to protect,” she notes.

The Maguire SDC wants densification to be done in a way that is harmonious with the area’s historical cachet and remains focused on the conservation of community spaces and parks.

Despite everything, Maguire Avenue remains one of the most beautiful commercial streets of Québec City, with architecture that evokes the district’s history, surrounded by majestic areas like the Bois-de-Coulonge, the Champlain Promenade and the Domaine Cataraqui. If you haven’t been, a visit is a must.

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About Author

Nadia Hammouda

Nadia Hammouda has worked in the field of communications and marketing for a number of years. Graduated from College Mérici’s Event and Conference Management programme, she opened a small business on Maguire avenue in Sillery in 2014. She is the owner of La Confiserie La Bricole and also works in the management of her parents’ restaurant, Le Rameau D’Olivier. Her passion for people and the ideals of community living are such that she enjoys getting involved in her community and helping different organisations in her sector.

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