What you can buy with $700K, and why the Mordecai Richler gazebo took so long

The final price tag of $700,000 has left many wondering how refurbishing a decaying bandstand could have cost that much — and what else the money could have been spent on?

Instead of fixing decaying bandstand, city could have bought 103 gazebos at Home Depot

The final product is officially open to the public. ( Louis -Marie Philidor/Radio-Canada)

Nearly 15 years after the death of Mile End's most famous writer and social critic – and five years after the project was announced – work on the Mordecai Richler gazebo in Montreal's Mount Royal Park was quietly completed this week.

The refurbishment of the decaying bandstand to honour the Montreal-born author was first announced in 2011 and began in 2015.

The final price tag of more than $700,000 has left many wondering how fixing it could have cost that much — and what else the money could have been spent on?

How the cost ballooned

After debating for years about how to best honour Richler, a controversial figure for his biting satire that was often aimed at Quebec nationalists, the city settled on the gazebo – and later, the Mile End library.

The total cost of the project was pegged at $379,000 by the city's executive committee in 2014. It ended up costing nearly double that amount, $724,000. 

Part of the problem was that the bandstand, built in 1928, ended up being in worse shape than originally thought, according to the city.

Réal Ménard, the city's executive committee member overseeing the project, said there were a number of unexpected developments, including lead detected in the paint and more mould than expected, so that the heritage structure had to be redone, nearly top to bottom.

The Mordecai Richler gazebo was still fenced off last summer.

Ménard acknowledged the high price tag doesn't sit well with residents. 

"I can well understand Montrealers, but at the same time we have responsibilities to preserve the heritage [of the structure]," he told Radio-Canada in May.

A request for comment from Mayor Denis Coderre's office was not returned. 

Here are some other items that could have been bought with $700,000.

103 gazebos at Home Depot

A gazebo available for purchase at Home Depot. (Home Depot)

Home Depot's "Bayside 12 ft. Octagon Panelized Gazebo," constructed from Western Red Cedar, costs $6,776.61, including taxes. 

The gazebo comes with a shingled cedar roof and a functional cupola.

161,290 sandwiches from Wilensky's

Wilensky's is located in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood. (Shawn Goldwater/Commons)

​The Mile End restaurant, immortalized in Richler's novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, has changed very little since he lived in the neighbourhood.

The eponymous Wilensky's Special, a beef salami and bologna on kaiser roll, now goes for $4.34. 

Air conditioning for 23 STM buses

STM buses can get steamy in the summer heat. (CBC)

The STM has committed to making Montrealers' commute cooler. Last year, it announced plans to add air conditioning to some of its fleet of buses.

Installing air conditioning is pegged at around $30,000 per bus.

Ceiling repairs at 1 high school gym

Louis Joseph Papineau High School is located in St-Michel. (Google Maps)

Last year, a teacher at Louis Joseph Papineau High School in Montreal's St-Michel neighbourhood pleaded for help to repair the crumbling ceiling at his school.

He made a 22-minute video documenting the decay. The school board estimated the repairs would cost as much as $800,000.

1 NDG Duplex

An NDG Duplex is available for just over $700,000. (Re/Max )

The asking price for a duplex on Wilson Street in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce is $729,000.

The property is billed as a "charming, well-maintained duplex" owned for more than 50 years by the same family.

31,818 copies of Barney's Version

Barney's Version was published in 1997, four years before Richler's death. (Knopf/CBC)

Richler's acclaimed novel, winner of the Giller Prize in 1997, retails for $22 at Indigo. It was later turned into a movie starring Paul Giamatti.