The craftsmen and shopkeepers in the historic centre of Quebec joined forces some 30 years ago to create the Petit Champlain Neighbourhood Cooperative and not only do they collectively own 27 buildings in the area, but they also consider themselves to be the guardians of the district’s heritage.
By the Canadian Federation of Worker Cooperatives
Recognised as being the oldest trading thoroughfare in North America, the rue du Petit-Champlain originally served as a pathway leading to a fountain constructed by Samuel de Champlain at the beginning of the XVIIth century. The appearance of the buildings lends the area an air of a highly attractive historic centre. However, the district looked completely different up until the 1970s. Having been left derelict at the end of the XIXth century, the district had become dilapidated and squalid until a major renewal project was introduced in the 1970s and 80s.
In 1985, the craftsmen established the Coopérative de solidarité du Quartier Petit Champlain and purchased the buildings with the help of the Société de développement des coopératives (SDC) du Québec (the Quebec Cooperatives Development Company) and the Caisses Desjardins. After a difficult start, the cooperative model proved itself to be an effective and profitable solution. The cooperative continues to strive to promote the district’s development and long-term future from a cultural, commercial and touristic point of view. One of the things which the cooperative does in particular is to supervise the nature of the artistic creations and products made available in the district.
This restoration project represented an unprecedented approach in Canada and was designed to leave the marks of previous centuries visible upon the buildings and to breathe new life into this narrow and long street by returning it to its original purpose of being a district for craftsmen and artisans. The Petit Champlain district is now visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and it constitutes a particularly successful example of the renewal of the built heritage of a changing historic centre.
Wall paintings painted in the neighbourhood by the Cité Création French cooperative of painters features elements of Vieux Québec architecture and pays tribute to the famous people who have left their mark on the city’s history, including Alphonse Desjardins. For further information visit: http://cite-creation.com/la-fresque-murale-des-quebecois-quebec-canada/diaporama/ .
For more information about the Coopérative de solidarité du Quartier Petit Champlain please visit: www.quartierpetitchamplain.com
The Canadian Federation of Worker Cooperatives would like to thank the Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America for a part of the contents, which have been taken from its article on the “Quartier Petit Champlain à Québec”.
International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives
Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037