The Quebec government has announced a record investment in university infrastructure, committing $173 million to help the University of Montreal build its new science campus in the Montreal borough of Outremont.

By 2018, the university hopes some of the world's most cutting-edge science will be performed and taught on the site of a disused rail yard straddling Outremont and the neighbouring boroughs of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension and Rosemont–La-Petite-Patry.

In a time of cost cutting, Premier Marois says investing in education and research means a stronger Quebec.

"In a period of five years, we will invest in [universities] $1.5 billion," Marois said, stressing that other universities will also see substantial investments in infrastructure.

No more room on Mount Royal

The University of Montreal's population is 61,000 and growing, and university rector Guy Breton said it's too hard to expand the current campus on the flank of Mount Royal.

"Building on the mountain, not only [does it] ruin the mountain, but it's more costly because of the rock," Breton said. "Construction [at the rail yard site] would be less expensive and more appropriate for the quality of building we need."

Construction is set to begin next year, but before that, the City of Montreal needs to install power lines and an overpass to reroute two sets of train tracks.

In all, the city plans to invest $152 million over the next 15 years.

The plan is to build an entirely new neighbourhood around the new science campus, with parks and new streets.  When completed, it will cover an area two-thirds the size of Parc Lafontaine.

Impact on low-income neighbours a concern

Some of the campus's future neighbours are worried about the impact on rents, especially in Park Extension — home to many new immigrants and some of the poorest people in Montreal.

"We need more cooperative housing to keep speculation down," said Sasha Dyck, who is running as a Projet Montréal candidate in the borough of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension.

The city has promised the site will include close to 400 social housing units.


The future science campus is to be located at the old CN railyard, just east of Rockland Avenue in the borough of Outremont. (Université de Montréal)