Montreal Children’s Hospital – A community vision
Montreal Children’s Hospital – One can say like in those old serials: “The story so far…” regarding the fate of the former Montreal Children’s Hospital. Montreal Children’s Hospital, a landmark in the west end of downtown just across of Cabot Square, closed its doors after it moved to its new quarters in the MUHC Super Hospital at the Glen site. A period of uncertainty and expectation followed, with various calls from the neighbourhood that the public service vocation of the site is preserved, converting the Montreal Children’s Hospital building into a hub for multiple community facilities: a community centre, an elementary school, a library, and some affordable housing. In the end, nothing of that happened, in 2015 the site was sold to a private developer although Mayor Denis Coderre offered some compromise under which the promoter must devote part of the new real estate project to a community centre and affordable housing.
There have been some meetings between the developer and members of the Peter McGill Community Council which represents the residents of the west-end sector of the city. Now there have been some proposals made by the community, and a public hearing will be held on March 20 at 7 p.m. at the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM). The deadline to submit opinions in writing or to register for a verbal intervention was this past March 16. The Peter McGill Community Council expects that many neighbours have taken the time to register for this hearing and that much more will attend the session to support its demands.
The Peter-McGill district, part of the Ville Marie borough, is home to 34,154 residents, including 2,355 families and 4,300 seniors. Between 2006 and 2011 it has seen a16.4% increase in the number of residents however the green space ratio is six times lower than environmental norms. There is no public elementary school, nor a community centre for the sector (there are some private schools, while community organizations that wish to hold meetings or other activities have to rent rooms in some of the local universities, churches or CEGEPs, usually not cheap).
At this time one of the top priorities is to have a community centre (I should add: hopefully, managed by the community itself, or at least with its input, and not run by city-appointed people with a bureaucratic mentality). There are concerns that given that the centre would be located in what ultimately will be private property, the input by the community will not be taken into account. Some are also afraid of what happens when public spaces are managed by private groups. Even by those that claim to have a community-oriented vocation (Montreal Arts Interculturel is a case that comes to my mind, it occupies what used to be the Strathearn Community Centre but is managed as a private corporation charging high fees to other community groups that want to use its facilities. That is a model that I wouldn’t like for this hybrid public facility on private land).
The Community Council also has some proposals regarding the housing segment of the development. Among them, a majority of social housing units be designed for families, including the integration of the former nurses’ residence into social housing for families. It also proposes that 15% of housing in buildings of 100 units or more must be dedicated to social housing and a greater number of large units for families be included within the 15% of affordable housing.
The Peter-McGill Community Council also proposes that the Commission takes into account in its recommendations: issues of air and sound pollution, access to sunlight, winds and traffic flows; and the provision of activities in the community centre that respond to the needs expressed by the homeless population.
Feature image: Local residents mobilized when the Children’s Hospital was vacated: they wanted to keep its public service vocation.