The Royal Victoria Hospital buildings could become part of McGill University if an agreement can be reached with the provincial government.

McGill spokesman Olivier Marcil said at a public forum yesterday that the university is keen to take over the property once its hospital functions are assumed by the new MUHC superhospital at the Glen Campus site in 2015-2016.

“McGill has a problem of space right now and because we're landlocked in downtown Montreal — the Mountain is behind us, downtown Montreal is in front of us — it's quite an opportunity to see that site becoming available,” Marcil said.

Marcil confirmed that McGill is already drafting plans to convert the Royal Vic for academic — as well as community — purposes.

“We will keep the institutional vocation of the site, but as well use it as an opportunity for the Montreal community to re-appropriate the mountain,” Marcil said.

That idea resonated with members of the public in attendance at the forum, which was organized by community group, Friends of the Mountain.

“I think that's a wonderful idea as long as it remains affiliated with McGill, part of McGill, as a cultural community of McGill — that's a wonderful idea,” said audience member Tony Antakly.

However, there’s still a long way to go before the idea can be realized.

McGill has to get the provincial government onside and willing to contribute to the Royal Vic’s conversion, and the university itself has to get a better sense of what the project will involve — especially in terms of costs.

“The first step is really for the Quebec government to declare or to say that it wants to do business with McGill on this and we have to conduct deeper studies really because nobody knows really what could be the cost,” Marcil said.

If everything works out, work transforming the Royal Vic for academic purposes could begin in three years.