Montreal's Negro Community Centre: rebuild or move on?
Two options are emerging in the wake of the collapse of a wall at the old Negro Community Centre
The uncertain fate of the old Negro Community Centre in Little Burgundy has Montreal’s black community wondering what could fill the void left by the historic institution.
It remains to be seen what will happen to the decades old community centre on Coursol Street that partially collapsed last week.
- Abandoned Little Burgundy building partially collapses
- Collapsed Little Burgundy building being inspected
One option that’s being considered is a new community centre.
Tiffany Callendar, executive director of the Côtes-des-Neiges Black Community Organization, says her group has a fund of around $250,000 that it wants to invest in the building of a new community centre for black Montrealers.
A feasibility study determined that the new centre would cost around $3.1 million and Callendar says a fundraising strategy for building it is now being developed.
As much as she would like to save the old Little Burgundy community centre that played such an essential role in the lives of Montreal's black residents, Callendar is not optimistic that nearly two decades of decay and dereliction can be reversed.
“It’s really looking like the end. I think we had hopes of what could happen for the [Negro Community Centre], but now it’s just more of a bleak story and situation," she told CBC News.
Yet not everyone sees the old Negro Community Centre’s situation as hopeless.
Craig Sauvé, the city councillor whose district includes Little Burgundy, says the building is too important to the neighbourhood he represents to let its long history come to an end.
"My borough councillors and I, we all feel that we want to maintain and preserve the building. It has immense historic value. It also has immense symbolic value for the people of Little Burgundy and the black community of Montreal," he said.
The result of an structural inspection last week suggests the building can be saved. The question now is how.
"How to rebuild the wall and bring that building up to norm, that's the major difficulty right now. That's going to take community solidarity and financing, and the borough wants to be a partner in seeking the financing," said Sauvé.
The borough does not have the money required to fix the damaged structure but he’s keen to start studying funding options with Negro Community Centre's board of directors.
Sauvé said the borough is prepared to look into federal, provincial and municipal funding options.
"It's clear the community wants the centre saved and reopened, and the borough wants to be a partner in that," he said.