Save the Deli

Bye Bye Ben’s


Even though Montreal’s Ben’s Delicatessen closed almost two years back, the fight to preserve the classic art deco structure has continued with ferocity. But alas, sometimes the death of a deli is inevitable, and so it comes with another note of sadness that the big ship of a deli on De Maisonneuve Blvd will be sold and torn down, as reports the Montreal Gazette.

After 57 years, it’s bye-bye Ben’s
Sandwich shop is toast. Montreal landmark closed in December and now faces the wrecker’s ball
MARY LAMEY, The Gazette
Published: Saturday, May 12 2007

Ben’s Restaurant, a Montreal landmark closed in December after a lengthy labour dispute, has been sold and will face the wrecker’s ball.
SIDEV Realty Corp. has purchased the three-storey building at the corner of Metcalfe St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd., from the Kravitz family. The deal is expected to close on June 18. The purchase price has not been disclosed.
SIDEV plans to demolish the building and is examining various options for redeveloping the 6,000-square-foot site. One option would be to build a 12- to-15-storey boutique hotel with retail space on the lower floors, or condominiums, said SIDEV president Sam Benatar, who began discussions with the Kravitz family several months ago.

“It’s a very small site, but what an incredible location,” Benatar said.
His firm is also open to working with the Hines-SITQ partnership, which is planning a 28-storey office tower on the lot immediately east of Ben’s. SIDEV has been in touch with the SITQ and expects to meet with the real estate development arm of the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec to see whether they can work together. His firm is not planning to sell the land, Benatar said firmly.

“We did not buy in order to sell, but we are open to discussing all possibilities.” A spokesman for the SITQ said he was unaware of the transaction and doubted the developer would alter its project to incorporate the Ben’s property.
“We are moving ahead with the project we presented publicly last October,” said Jacques-Andre Charland, the SITQ’s director of public affairs.

The Texas-based Hines Group purchased the parking lot immediately east of Ben’s in 2004. It partnered with the SITQ, a major landlord, to build the $150-million project that was to virtually wrap around the restaurant, one of the last three-storey structures along the canyon of office towers on De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

Hines has said publicly that it had hoped to strike a deal to acquire the neighbouring land, too. The Kravitz family has vehemently denied that it was ever approached about selling. The family could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Ben Kravitz opened a deli offering smoked meat on St. Lawrence Blvd. in 1908. The Metcalfe St. eatery, with its wrap-around illuminated sign, opened in 1950. The current municipal tax roll pegs the property’s value at $2.62 million, including $1.96 million for the land and $660,700 for the building.

“There’s no question of leaving the building in place. It isn’t worth anything,” Benatar said.
SIDEV owns and manages large office and commercial properties around Montreal, including the Gordon Brown building at 400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. in the fur district, the jewellery business hub at 620 Cathcart St. and a Chabanel district property at 9250 Park Ave.

It is also moving ahead with a plan to demolish the Spectrum and build a $120-million retail and office project at the southeast corner of Bleury and Ste. Catherine Sts.

4 Responses to “Bye Bye Ben’s”

  1. oldsalt Says:

    David, I ate one meal at Ben’s about 8 years ago during a 10 day visit to Montreal. Looking back, I agree the restaurant was a throw back to the 40′s or 50′s. I liked it, but not the food particularly. I had much better smoked meat at Schwartz’s.
    Thanks for the update.

  2. Mark Says:

    With all due respect, the food was gross, totally gross.

    A city that supports a great deli like Schwartz’s cannot be blamed for letting Ben’s die.

    Love your website, BTW.

  3. Jim R. Says:

    Have to agree with Mark-
    I ate there in college and it was dead in there…and that was the late 80′s.

  4. gary Says:

    Hello! Nice site and good articles.

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