Social housing plan for old Montreal Children's Hospital site at risk

Coun. Cathy Wong, whose Peter-McGill district includes the project site, said the sticking point with the developer is the price the city would have to pay for the units, which has risen significantly in the two years since the project was approved.

Mayor says development firm behind the project is 'not respecting its promise'

The city gave its support to the project in December 2016. (CBC)

An agreement to build social housing units within a $400-million development at the site of the former Montreal Children's Hospital may be on shaky ground.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said Wednesday she's "not happy" that the negotiations are ongoing, and not comfortable with a development firm that is "not respecting its promise."

The agreement to build social housing, made two years ago, was a condition for the city's acceptance of the project, she said.

"I'm definitely reminding the promoter that for his project to be acceptable for the boroughs … and population around, there has to be social and affordable housing," Plante said.

The city gave its support to the project in Dec. 2016, during the term of then-mayor Denis Coderre.

Last year, Devimco, one of the project's developers, said it couldn't build an elementary school on the site because it couldn't wait any longer for the provincial government and school board to provide plans.

Coun. Cathy Wong, whose Peter-McGill district includes the development site, said the current situation is "extremely disappointing."

She said the sticking point with the developer is the price the city would have to pay for the units.

"That price has changed in the past two years, and now, the price that is being asked is much more," she said. "And just by extending the negotiation process, they are currently not respecting their engagement."

The site, a 1.4-million square-foot property, is situated downtown at René-Lévesque Boulevard and Atwater Street.

Disappointed residents voice frustrations

Many downtown residents were disappointed when the proposed school was scrapped, but there were still hopes for social housing in the massive project.

Community groups protested the latest news Wednesday evening and came together at the Ville-Marie borough council, calling on the city to keep the pressure on.

Corey Gulkin, a spokesperson for the Peter-McGill Community Council, said 42 per cent of the population lives below the low-income threshold in the area.

"We've been in dire need for this housing for years," she said. "And to hear that this tower that could have about 150 apartments — hearing that that might become condos or hotel, it's devastating for us.

"We're very, very concerned at this point that it's going to fall through, that the developers are just going to weasel their way out of this negotiation process."

Devimco and another developer, High-Rise Montreal, did not respond to CBC's requests for an interview on Wednesday evening.

With files from Matt D'Amours


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