Still no solution for McCord Museum complex nixed by city

Montreal is standing firm on it decision to turn a parking lot into a small park rather than a $150-million museum complex, leaving museum officials empty handed after years of planning.

Millions in funding on the line as city rejects museum's suggested alternatives

President and CEO of the McCord Museum Suzanne Sauvage says millions of dollars in funding is now on the line because Montreal is standing firm on its decision to turn land slated for a $150-million museum complex into a park instead. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Mayor Valérie Plante's administration is standing firm on its decision to turn a parking lot into a small park rather than a $150-million new home for the McCord Museum, leaving museum officials suddenly empty handed after years of planning.

Already, $250,000 has been spent studying a Quartier des Spectacles location that was promised to the McCord by the Coderre administration.

Now, with nowhere to build its new home, millions of dollars in funding may be on the line.

"We have to find a solution," McCord Museum president and CEO Suzanne Sauvage told CBC Montreal's Daybreak Thursday. "This would be an aberration not to find a solution."

The parking lot in question is located off Bleury Street near the Place-des-Arts Metro, between de Maisonneuve Boulevard West and President Kennedy Avenue.

The city announced last month that it changed its plans for that lot. Since then, museum heads have met with Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

They hoped they'd be able to change her mind by offering solutions, such as creating a public space in front of the complex. However, Sauvage said, the city "seemed quite determined to do a park there."

The McCord Museum of Canadian History, located on Sherbrooke Street West in downtown Montreal, is overloaded with artifacts and needs new space, according to its president and CEO (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

City unable to provide alternative location

Montreal assigned a city employee to help find a solution, Sauvage said, but no alternatives have been brought to the table yet.

A Montreal spokesperson told CBC that the city is eager to resolve the issue in collaboration with the museum.

"Our administration really wants to find solutions to find a location for the McCord Museum," wrote Geneviève Jutras, who speaks for the mayor and the city's executive committee. "At this point, we cannot provide the locations we are looking at."

Museums partner to build complex

The new complex was to be built in a partnership between three Montreal museums: the McCord, the Stewart (dedicated to the history of New France) and the Fashion Museum. 

"The vision behind all that is to bring all of those under one roof and create a new, important city museum that will tell the story of Montreal and the stories of Montrealers," Sauvage said.

That goal, she added, would also give the McCord Museum more space to host larger numbers of school groups and increase gallery displays.

The McCord's current home, on Sherbrooke Street West, is too small, she said. Artifact donations must be turned away because of space constraints and only one per cent of the museum's collection is on display at any given time.

The new mueum would bring together the collections of the McCord, Montreal's Fashion Museum and the Stewart Museum (pictured). (Claude Roy Photography/Stewart Museum )

That need for space brought the three partnering museums together to plan the new location. They have been working toward that goal for several years.

Alternatives rejected, funding in jeopardy 

Instead of a small park, Sauvage said, creating a public space in front of the new museum would "be interesting for visitors, particularly in the summer."

That idea was turned down, she said, as was the suggestion that the city create a public green space behind the St. James United Church, located on Ste-Catherine Street West.

It is a space that is already green, she said, and "it's quieter. It's a lovely space, as a matter of fact, and it would serve the same citizens of that Ville-Marie neighbourhood."

Either way, the city's decision has put the project's financing in jeopardy as its backers may not have the patience to wait out the delays, she said. 

Some $25 million in time-sensitive, private-sector funding has been pledged to the museum, Sauvage said, and now that "money is sort of stuck there."

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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