The sale of the former Misericordia hospital to the private sector raises concerns

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The sale of the former Misericordia Hospital to the private sector raises concerns

The buildings of the former Misericordia Hospital, located on René-Lévesque Boulevard in Montreal, have been unoccupied for almost 10 years.

Fenced and padlocked, the former Hôpital de la Miséricorde goes virtually unnoticed, even though it occupies a complete quadrangle in the city center, at the corner of René-Lévesque Boulevard and Saint-Louis Street. Hubert.

While the building has been decommissioned for 10 years, the Quebec government is preparing to put it up for sale. A prospect that worries neighborhood organizations, who fear that it will jeopardize the construction of social housing if a private developer gets their hands on the site.

What will be the broker's recommendations for its marketing, will there be a large share allocated to the private sector? asks the coordinator of the Table de concertation du Faubourg Saint-Laurent, Marc-André Fortin.

“It contradicts the project we were putting forward. We, of course, were aiming for a 100% social and community redevelopment on the site. »

— Marc-André Fortin, coordinator of the Faubourg Saint-Laurent round table

The coordinator of the Table de concertation du Faubourg Saint-Laurent, Marc-André Fortin

The Table de concertation is part of a group of organizations that have been working for a decade on a social and community housing project on the site of the former hospital. These organizations hope that the City of Montreal will be able to make their voice heard as it sits on the steering committee set up to establish the parameters of a transaction.

The buildings, which belong to the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS), have been vacant since 2013. Last year, the City of Montreal presented its vision for redeveloping the site, which is in tune with that of organizations of the neighborhood.

The Plante administration wants in particular the construction of 90 social housing units, 80 affordable housing units for students, 130 artists' studios and 60 studios attached to the Maison du Père and which would be intended for seniors who have experienced homelessness.

But the City does not want to own the place. Five years ago, the MSSS had offered to give it the old hospital, but without financial assistance for its renovation.

It is terribly dilapidated and these are architectural elements of very important heritage interest, so we must preserve all that. There are parts that are really completely finished, it will cost a lot of money and the City cannot, on its own, articulate the vision and ensure that it is built, explains the person in charge of the project. housing to the executive committee, Benoit Dorais.

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The City of Montreal's conversion vision for the former Miséricorde hospital

Several buildings are in poor condition, according to the document prepared by the City to set out its vision for the conversion of the site.

In particular, there are reports of a very significant maintenance deficit and structural instability in certain pavilions, as well as problems with the foundations. Electromechanical systems are also greatly damaged and have reached the end of their useful life.

A multi-million dollar makeover would be needed to bring the buildings up to standard. Not wanting to perform the task itself, the Quebec government therefore turned to the private sector. We are betting that a developer will be able to make the construction of social housing on the site profitable by also erecting a condo tower there.

A possibility that raises eyebrows for Valérie Richard, the president of the Cooperative d'habitation Testan, an organization founded in the hope of developing family housing and for single people on the site of the former hospital of Miséricorde.

We have difficulty imagining that this is something that really interests a private promoter. I would really like to see that happen, but it really worries us to think that this cohabitation is possible, she says.

“I'm not sure that the idea of ​​living next to housing that is made available to seniors who have experienced homelessness is something very selling for the promoter. »

— Valérie Richard, President of the Cooperative d'habitation Testan

The President of the Cooperative of habitation Testan, Valérie Richard

The MSSS states that expectations regarding the construction of social housing will be set out to potential developers as part of the marketing process. The wish is to allow developers to make the best development proposals, while ensuring that social and community components receive a fair share, said a spokesperson in an email.

The City of Montreal was also invited to sit on the steering committee that will steer the sale of the site, which also includes representatives from the MSSS, the Integrated University Health and Social Services Center (CIUSSS) of Centre-Sud-de-l' x27;Île-de-Montréal and the Société québécoise des infrastructures.

The Plante administration intends to put forward its vision for the reconversion of the #x27;former hospital.

“If the Government of Quebec has the political will to save its property, within a place where we need social housing, it will be possible. »

— Benoit Dorais, responsible for housing on the executive committee of the City of Montreal

Everything will be in the call for projects with criteria that can be taken into account in the vision we have developed, he continues.

The vice-president of the executive committee and responsible for housing at the City of Montreal, Benoit Dorais

The neighborhood organizations expect no less. Our wish is that the City will shine the spotlight on the project it itself proposed in 2021 and which resembles our own project. The wish is for her to be our ally. That remains to be seen, says Valérie Richard.

The longer we wait to act, the more expensive it is, the more important the repairs are to do, adds Marc-André Fortin. What is quite fascinating is that the Government of Quebec, at the time of emptying the building, had no plan for redevelopment. There, we live with the consequences of this wait-and-see attitude.

The MSSS will call for proposals in the coming months for the redevelopment of the site of the former hospital. It indicates that projects will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, depending on the price offered and the likelihood of them seeing the light of day. It is hoped that a transaction will be concluded by the end of next year.

The construction of the hospital and the convent, managed by the Sisters of Mercy, began in 1853 and the last buildings were constructed in 1947. The establishment, which became a long-term care center, the CHSLD Jacques-Viger, in 1975, was previously a motherhood for single mothers, those who were called single mothers at the time.

Hundreds of thousands of women have given birth there and many of them have been forced to give up their children for adoption, given the stigma surrounding births outside marriage.

< p class="e-p">Caroline Masse is one of the last children born at Misericordia Hospital. She is now the spokesperson for the Musée de la Miséricorde project, which aims to create a museum space in the chapel that overlooks René-Lévesque Boulevard so that the memory of the past can be remembered. place is preserved.

The interior of the Chapel of Mercy

I am one of the 300,000 children born there. That means it's about a million people in the 20th century, including a lot of descendants today, children, grandchildren. And that story is not told anywhere. For me, these walls tell this story, there is no museum, no place that tells this, says Ms. Masse.

She hopes that the x27;place will retain a certain social vocation, which was the case at the time of the Sisters of Mercy when they ceded the site to the Government of Quebec. To what extent is the City at the negotiating table, to what extent will it succeed in pushing for the project to remain as close as possible to what it would have liked? What we will have to see is the part that will remain community and social.

Caroline Masse, spokesperson for the Misericordia History Museum project

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