Well, in strict terms, a renewed vocation, since –according to the director of the site, Fr. Guy Guindon– the Order of the Sulpicians was always committed to educational work, since the beginnings of the French settlement in Montreal. This week Fr. Guindon met with members of the Peter McGill Community Council to inform the residents of the plans for the historic area, as well as to hear suggestions from the downtown neighbours.
Renamed the Campus du Fort de la Montagne, the site will comprise five distinct educational institutions: The Grand Seminary itself and the Theological Institute dedicated to the training of priests and theologians, the Collège de Montréal, a private Catholic high school, indeed the oldest high school in Montreal. These two are already located there. In addition to them, Centennial Academy, a private high school, and Centennial College, a private Cegep, and a public elementary school, will also be part of the campus, thus covering almost all levels of education (the need for a pre-school establishment was mentioned by one neighbour, but that doesn’t depend on the campus administration).
The project seems a win-win situation: Fr. Guindon points to the fact that, keeping this site, much of it classified as heritage buildings, could not be done by the Sulpicians alone. On the other hand, Centennial was looking for a suitable place for its high school and college students, and the creation of a public primary school in the area had long been a demand by residents in the Peter McGill district. The complex would then contain religious and secular schools, reflecting the diversity of the neighbourhood. In addition to the conversion of the site into a new hub for students of different ages and backgrounds, what Fr. Guindon calls “an inter-generational campus,” some of the existing facilities, particularly the green space comprising some of the oldest trees in the city, a soccer field, and a small basin, could also become accessible to the public. However, this access will be subject to some restrictions (limited to daytime only). This proposed new park, however, depends on the result of negotiations with the City of Montreal, since it would require maintenance, security, and lighting.
To plan for its new vocation, which is to last for the next fifty years, the site has been divided into 14 zones: the Seminary and the Institute of Theology in zone 1 which is the core of the whole complex, including its beautiful chapel and the crypt that contains the rests of priests buried there since the 17th century. Zone 2 includes the existing Collège de Montréal. Zone 3 will be rented to Centennial Academy (high school) and Centennial College (Cegep). Zone 4 and 5 are historic sites too used by the Collège de Montréal. Zone 6 will host the new public elementary school. Zone 7 is currently a warehouse which may be transformed into a gymnasium to be used by the new schools. Zones 8, 9 and 14 are parking spaces. Zones 10, 11, 12 and 13 are areas designed for common use.
This historic educational complex located on Sherbrooke Street but occupying a large area with access from Côte des Neiges Rd. too, once it materializes will be an important contribution to the west end section of downtown. Those residents who attended the meeting left favourably impressed by the prospect of the refurbished Seminary, now to be known as the Campus du Fort de la Montagne. A new name, with a traditional dedication to education.
Feature image: The magnificent complex of the Grand Séminaire will become the Campus du Fort de la Montagne