July 18 2014

How will Montreal, Quebec Repurpose its Aging Urban Hospitals?

Two super-hospitals (MUHC and CHUM) are under construction in Montreal, Quebec and they are considered to be two of the city’s largest building projects since the 1976 Olympics and will reinforce Montreal’s position as a leader in life sciences research. Their development will combine several major hospitals onto their two sites, rendering many historic buildings vacant and left with an uncertain future.

McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada - Glen Site

The MUHC, or the McGill University Health Center, was formed in 1997 when the Montreal Children’s Hospital, Montreal General Hospital, Montreal Neurological Institute, Royal Victoria Hospital, and the Montreal Chest Institute, all merged together under one umbrella institutional association. The new MUHC campus is currently under development at the Glen Yards, a marshalling commuter and intercity train yard, in the Notre-Dame de Grâce neighborhood. The $2.355 billion urban redevelopment project, set to open in the summer of 2015, will house the Montreal Children’s and Royal Victoria Hospitals, the Montreal Chest Institute, the Research Institute of the MUHC, a new Cancer Center, and the future Shriners Hospitals for Children. Part of the money (plus an additional $63 million) will be invested in the modernization of the Montreal General Hospital and the Lachine Hospital and go towards new teaching and research programs.

The CHUM, or the Centre hospitalier de l’université de Montréal, was formed in 1996 with the merging of the Saint Luc, Hôtel Dieu and Notre Dame hospitals. The $2 billion project lies in between Old Montreal and the Latin Quarter and is set to open in 2016.

Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

This therefore leaves the future of now unused historic sites undetermined. The government is looking to proceed with the sale of the Montreal Chest Institute and the Children’s Hospital which will be overseen by the Société québécoise des infrastructures, or Quebec Society of Infrastructure. McGill University is currently developing a proposal for the Royal Victoria’s future, which would solve the University’s expansion problems and preserve this heritage building built in 1893. There is little word surrounding the fate of the rest of the hospitals however. Yet it seems the majority of citizens who attended a public consultation regarding the Hôtel Dieu Hospital, lying at its present site since 1861, do not want to see it succumb to real estate developers. Luckily, the current zoning laws will not allow for this change just yet. A formal process is set out for the reclaiming of public health sector properties as follows:

1. The Ministry of Health and Social Services are first allowed to decide whether to use these buildings for other health sector uses.
2. Offer properties to other ministries.
3. Offer properties to other potential buyers in the public sector.
4. If no public buyers are found, entertain bids from the private sector.

Therefore, these historic facilities still have a chance at preservation and remaining within the realm of research and education, if not healthcare itself, rather than an automatic transformation into residential uses. Furthermore, there are several causes for concern surrounding the MUHC project including an insufficient number of beds available to patients and palliative care units, as well as the questionable location of the Glen site itself as it borders the busy Turcot Interchange and noisy railway tracks.

Do you think the city make the right decision in choosing new construction over the upgrading and modernization of the separate institutions?

Credits: Images by Caitlin Dixon. Data linked to sources.

Caitlin Dixon

Caitlin Dixon is a recent graduate of McGill University in Montreal, Québec, holding a B.A. in Geography: Urban Systems and a Minor in History. Born and raised in Montreal, her love of travel has propelled her to partake in several international field courses. During her academic career she has studied Human and Physical Geography in Sutton, Québec, Environmental Management in Holetown, Barbados and Urban Geography in Berlin, Germany. Now, she will begin work in Rio de Janeiro as a Public Space intern for Catalytic Communities, an advocacy empowerment NGO centered around community development and urban planning. Her role will be to research and document the forms and functions of both informal and formal public spaces in different neighbourhoods and favelas across the city. Her main interests include public space design and use, as well as urban revitalization. She hopes to capture and further explore these subjects in her blogs for The Grid.

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This entry was posted on Friday, July 18th, 2014 at 9:38 am and is filed under Architecture, History/Preservation, Urban Development/Real Estate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “How will Montreal, Quebec Repurpose its Aging Urban Hospitals?”

  1. SFB Says:

    They probably did make the right call to build a new hospital, because it’s hard to renovate old buildings into state-of-the-art facilities suitable for the next 50 years. In Princeton, NJ, we just went through the same process. In our case, it’s been a 10-year slog to figure out what to do with the old urban hospital site. Many nearby residents wanted it redeveloped as a park, although residential accommodation is really what the town needs (as demonstrated by sky-high rents and home prices). Eventually, the site is being redeveloped as apartments, but only after much controversy and four court cases. More here and at links within: http://walkableprinceton.com/2014/03/11/princeton-giant-rats/

  2. Caitlin Dixon Says:

    Thank you for sharing this example, and attaching the link. Such large-scale decisions obviously take time and a lot of thought, discussion, and planning. Therefore, transparency between all the stakeholders and actors involved in the process is the best course of action until a consensus can be reached.

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