Reuse of the building located at 1420 Boulevard Mont-Royal
Opinion piece by Les amis de la montagne
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
THE MOUNTAIN HAS ITS LIMITS!
The project to convert the former convent of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary into luxury condominiums on the northern flank of the mountain in Outremont is being opposed by many citizens who want to keep our major institutions on the mountain. Their concerns are founded. While it’s true that Mount Royal is currently protected by virtue of a governmental decree, it is not immune to transformation. Maintenance of the institutions located on its flanks comes at a price.
Let’s recall that the Université de Montréal purchased the convent in 2003. Since then, Mount Royal was decreed a Historic and Natural District and the City of Montreal led a three-year exercise resulting in the Mount Royal Master Protection and Enhancement Plan. This plan recognizes that the mountain has a limit to its capacity for development.
In 15 years, the Université de Montréal and its affiliated schools built six new buildings on Mount Royal (the HEC, Marcelle and Jean Coutu, J-A Bombardier and Lassonde 1 pavilions, and the Centre des technologies en aérospatiale), for a total area of 70,000 m2. Considering that the university says its needs the equivalent amount of area for its future expansion, it is difficult to imagine how the current mountain campus can accommodate the equivalent of these six buildings without compromising the fragile balance of the site’s built, landscape and natural heritage.
The former convent of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary no longer figures in the development plans of the Université de Montréal. If the university is forced to preserve the convent, will it not need to review its strategy to redeploy to the Outremont campus? Will it not need to consolidate its actual campus and pursue the densification of the mountain?
Under these circumstances, the evaluation of the project by the public bodies involved must take into account the consequences of imposing the conservation of this building on the university in its development plan. Ideally, institutions are an important element of the mountain’s heritage and should be given priority. But in this particular case, the continued development of the Université de Montréal on its mountain campus is a threat to Mount Royal.
Considering that the conversion of the convent into condominiums does not require any new construction and will therefore, not add to the mountain’s densification; considering also the favourable opinions and recommendations of the heritage experts consulted by the City as to the quality of the project being presented, the choice is clear. The protection of the mountain necessitates a limit to development.
Les amis de la montagne present their position paper tonight, March 11, before the Office de consultation publique de Montréal. You may read the position paper (in French) by clicking here.