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Public hearing held on fate of Hôtel-Dieu site

Disagreement over use of buildings and space after hospital closure

On March 26, the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough administration conducted a public hearing to gather suggestions for the use of the site of the present Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal hospital. Alex Norris, city councillor for the Jeanne-Mance district, led the consultation.

Norris explained during the meeting, held in French, that the Quebec government has announced the closure of several Montreal hospitals, including the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal Chest Institute, and the Hôtel-Dieu – the oldest hospital in Montreal, founded in 1642. According to Norris’ presentation, the decision came after a large expansion of the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) increased the centre’s capacity to such a degree that, according to government experts, it has rendered these hospitals obsolete.

Norris noted that McGill might seek to acquire Royal Victoria Hospital building for a proposed expansion of the university campus.

Representatives from Milton-Parc and Mile End residents’ groups, as well as two city planners, attended the hearing. After a lengthy question-and-answer session, participants were given the opportunity to propose their ideas for the use and zoning of the property.

“In the absence of a city-sponsored project,” Norris said at the hearing, “we can transform the site.”

Proposals for the use of the property included affordable housing, a scaled-back community health centre, use as condos, and commercial use.

The current zoning laws do not permit the conversion of the Hôtel-Dieu into residences, as the hospital is classified as “public and institutional property,” according to Norris. The Ministère de la Culture et des Communications also considers a portion of the campus where the hospital is located as a heritage site.

Lucia Kowaluk of the Milton-Parc Citizens’ Committee advocated for affordable housing for seniors and the impoverished as a possible use for the Hôtel-Dieu building. The Committee could not be reached for further comment.

Norris told The Daily after the hearing that he is committed to “maintain[ing] an employment hub” in the area surrounding the Hôtel-Dieu. According to Norris, it is important that businesses affected by the closure of the hospital continue to function.

Norris emphasized that, although the City of Montreal may also have an interest in developing the property, the mayor’s administration should consider the ideas brought forward by community members. “There are many smart people [in the community who] have a lot of expertise. […] We would like Mayor Coderre to be respectful of our consultation process,” Norris said.

Luc Ferrandez, the borough mayor of Plateau-Mont-Royal, has already asked Coderre to propose a plan for the Hôtel-Dieu and Notre-Dame hospitals that “protects employment,” Norris told The Daily.

Coderre and Ferrandez were not available for comment.