Collapsed Little Burgundy building being inspected

Engineers are inspecting a historic Little Burgundy community centre that partially collapsed on Sunday to determine the building's future.

Oscar Peterson's sister, Daisy Sweeney, taught piano at crumbling Little Burgundy community centre

CBC's Salimah Shivji at the scene of the former community centre that gave way on Sunday. 0:42

Engineers are inspecting a historic Little Burgundy community centre that partially collapsed on Sunday to determine the building's fate.

Part of the stone facade of the old Negro Community Centre collapsed Sunday. The collapse forced 38 residents of a neighbouring apartment building into temporary accommodations while engineers inspect the crumbling structure.

No one was injured.

Barriers had been erected around the building a few months ago when loose stones fell from the facade.

However, a recent inspection found no signs of an imminent collapse.

The historic centre was once the hub of Little Burgundy’s black community.

“This is where people came on weekends, this is where they had all their activities — social activities, political activities, it all happened here,” Egbert Gaye, editor of the local Community Contact newspaper, told CBC News.

Jazz great Oscar Peterson's sister, Daisy Sweeney, taught neighbourhood youngsters to play piano at the centre.

Heather Tyrrell remembered the centre as the heart of Little Burgundy's black community, providing essential services like nursery school and lunch programs for its youth.

"It was a true place of community spirit," she told CBC Radio's Daybreak

The centre closed more than 20 years ago and the structure has been boarded up ever since.

Board members of the Negro Community Centre had been hoping to restore the aging stone building. 

Former board member Darryl Gray told Daybreak that in-fighting on the board at the time delayed efforts to seek government assistance for the building's upkeep, which proved costly in the end. 

Government help was eventually offered and a feasibility study was conducted. Architectural plans were also drawn up for an expansion of the building that would have included a library, resource centre and office space for community organizations. 

Gray said Montreal's black community lacked the "financial infrastructure" to see the project realized.

"I'm hoping this will be a wake-up call to our community and the community of Montreal that we can no longer sit by and let our community institutions crumble and collapse," Gray said. 

"It's a set-back but it's not the end of our dream."