It’s midnight minus one to save the Biard house. Its current owner, Universidade Laval, is in the process of selling this establishment, which is part of Percé’s heritage, to private interests.
The general and artistic director of Les Percéides, François Cormier, is used in the summer season to rent this vast nine-bedroom residence in order to accommodate artists during their film festival. Only this time, he was faced with closed doors, being told that he couldn’t use the house, as it is soon to be posted on a realtor’s website.
The latter would much prefer Laval University to sell Maison Biard to the cultural community of Percé via Les Percéides, who would be its main manager, rather than see it fall into the hands of the private sector. An emergency meeting with the dean was requested to find an alternative. ” It was an order of inadmissibility. They simply said that they could not respond favorably to our request and that the house would be sold by a realtor. », explains François Cormier. In these circumstances, he asked the Minister of Culture and Communications, Nathalie Roy, for a moratorium on the possible sale of the Biard house.
As elsewhere in Quebec, the housing problem is palpable in Percé. Last year, CIRADD (Center for Initiation to Research and Assistance to Sustainable Development) released a study carried out in Gaspésie municipalities with 2,500 to 10,000 inhabitants. The vacancy rate for apartments and townhouses was 0% in four of the five municipalities for which a reliable and valid statistic could be calculated, including Percé.
Quebec also recently made Villa Frédéric-James – the residence located on the cape facing the famous Percé Rock – its Gaspésie Blue Space. “ There is no artist residency in Percé and we have just been assigned to the Espace bleu. There are questions to be asked about how to cohere this whole issue […] It allows us to host a group of artists that we consider important to us. If we lose this property, it will slow down cultural development throughout the RMC and in our great community. », analyzes the general and artistic director of Les Percéides, whose mandate is to highlight young contemporary auteur cinema and digital arts in Gaspésie.
However, he says he feels a certain openness with the Ministry of Culture and Communications, to which he sent his moratorium request last night. Already last year, the Percéides had to insist on the opening of the Biard house, which almost remained closed during the summer, were it not for some political pressure. ” I had to call Jonatan Julien’s office [ministre responsable de la Gaspésie] because they [l’Université] did not want to open. It took a while, but finally got it. I think there is a lack of understanding of the situation somewhere », concludes François Cormier
Recall that in 1901, Jersey native Charles Biard set up his fishing business on the Anse du Nord coast in Percé, as well as Biard’s Beach Hotel. Of this property with many cabins, only the house facing the Rock remains today and is an integral part of Percé’s heritage.
Laval University acquired this house for educational and artistic training purposes when creating the Percé International Summer School around 20 years ago, at the same time as acquiring the Frederick-James villa. Laval University decided three years ago to end its academic activities in Percé.
Neither Laval University nor the Ministry of Culture and Communications responded to the email sent by Gaspésie Nouvelles.