More than ever, we have seen how essential urban parks have become to Montrealers’ quality of life. The pandemic has increased pressure on these green spaces. Parks with high landscape value, such as those on Mount Royal, are experiencing heightened visitation. There is an urgent need to act to provide citizens with more healthy, verdant parklands. Such green spaces will also serve to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
An entire section of the former Royal Victoria Hospital site consists of parking lots located on the edge of natural habitats. These hold vast potential for regreening that would allow for the extension of the park and the development of an important gateway to Mount Royal Park from downtown.

The relevance of this site in Montreal's urban vision is very much alive. This defining urban landmark provides access to a vast therapeutic space where users can fully enjoy the benefits of the mountain.

A natural corridor, from the mountain to the river

Mount Royal, a veritable urban lung, marks the Montreal landscape with breathtaking views to and from the mountain. It has a unique relationship with the St. Lawrence River and the Monteregian Hills. In 1874, the City of Montreal called upon the genius of Frederick Law Olmsted, the renowned landscape architect commissioned to design the space between Mount Royal and the city, where founding institutions such as the Royal Victoria Hospital are located.

A century and a half ago, Olmsted imagined the Royal Victoria Hospital grounds as being integrated into Mount Royal Park, thus ensuring an enduring connection between parkland and city. At the time, a part of the land occupied by the hospital was even acquired by the City of Montreal for this very purpose. This territory was later transferred to the hospital.

The Royal Vic in the heart of the park's enchanting landscape

When the park opened in 1876, the climb up the mountain from downtown offered a unique experience in nature. Rich landscapes revealed streams, rock walls, boardwalks, open water reservoirs, greenhouses and orchards typical of Victorian gardens, not to mention a thriving biodiversity that animated this environment.

As the Royal Victoria Hospital property evolved over time, its development was gradually separated from that of Mount Royal Park. It nonetheless retains its exceptional mountainside character, while benefiting from the regenerative mission of Mount Royal’s hallmark landscapes, green space and fresh air.

In the spirit of the early history of the Royal Victoria, repurposing the hospital is an ideal opportunity to consolidate key elements of Mount Royal’s southeastern slope, as well as to integrate a portion of its grounds into Mount Royal Park, including its woodlands, a section of the parking lots and properties adjacent to the park.

A mountain-river walk brought to life

You may have noticed the greenery that runs from the Royal Victoria Hospital to the McGill campus, extending to Sherbrooke Street in the heart of downtown, and eventually reaching the St. Lawrence River. There are several wooded patches, especially between the roads leading to parking lots, with many mature trees. Some of these areas are isolated, while others are located directly on the edge of Mount Royal Park and contribute to its landscape experience right down to Pine Avenue.

The Royal Victoria site is an opportunity to create a greenbelt on Mount Royal’s south-facing slope, providing greater natural habitat connectivity across the mountain including its southwestern and northern slopes, and down to the river. A new pedestrian access to Mount Royal Park could also be provided from the top of University Street, which would also strengthen the connection between the mountain and the city.

A shared architectural and natural heritage

Let’s take on the Royal Victoria site as a living lab for the sustainable repurposing of an iconic space at the heart of Montreal. This is a fertile ground for collective intelligence and citizen involvement! The community can be of invaluable support to the renewal of this great swath of the mountain’s rich ecosystems, as well as the restoration of the space required for two brilliant 19th century legacy projects to continue to co-exist and flourish: Mount Royal Park and the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Both have common roots in striving to serve the greater good, contributing to the physical and mental well-being of Montrealers, tapping into the minds of great foreign designers, and shaping the landscape of our city's identity.

Innovating with the Royal Victoria Hospital

This site has immense potential for (re)creating splendid verdant landscapes that enhance Mount Royal Park through the integration of the Royal Victoria into its perimeter! Daylighting and restoring the site’s streams and wetlands will also have immeasurable benefits. Permeable, green infrastructure can enrich the existing arboreal heritage, and aquatic habitats can nurture rare flora and fauna on the mountain, such as frogs and salamanders.

Rehabilitating the Royal Victoria must bring about projects that build on best practices in community and urban development, while adapting them to the unique context of a protected heritage site.

Don’t miss our next article in this series: The Vision for the Royal Victoria Hospital

In 2018, the Quebec Government commissioned the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) to rehabilitate the former Royal Victoria Hospital. The resulting Master Plan will be submitted to a public consultation in the spring of 2021. Les amis de la montagne will take an active part in this process!


For a nature experience on the Royal Victoria site, rediscover the Peel entrance and its stream, which could inspire future developments on the site.

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