Montreal·Special Report

Royal Vic in demand as movie set as MUHC awaits sale of 19th-century hospital

The three hospitals that merged into the McGill University Health Centre's Glen site are sitting vacant, and the MUHC must pay for their upkeep while it tries to sell them.

MUHC on hook for $7.5M annual cost of heating, maintaining vacant buildings

The three hospitals that merged into the McGill University Health Centre's Glen site are sitting vacant, and the MUHC must pay for their upkeep while it tries to sell them.

Here's an update on where each deal stands:

Royal Victoria hospital: Sideline in film

The old Royal Vic's reincarnation as a film set will halt once the sale of the hospital grounds goes through, but that's unlikely to happen before 2018. (Charles Contant/CBC)

It's expected to take a while before the sale of the old Royal Victoria Hospital goes through.

In the meantime, the MUHC is on the hook for all heating, lighting and security costs at the old Royal Vic, which adds up to nearly $500,000 a month.

To offset some of those costs, the health centre opens up parts of the hospital, including a heritage operating theatre, to film production companies. 

"A lot of movies are wanting to film in a 19th-century hospital setting," said MUHC spokesperson Ian Popple, adding that the list of productions which have used the space includes some "big blockbusters."
The MUHC says the heritage operating theatre, complete with teaching gallery, is particularly popular for film producers. (Charles Contant/CBC)

The MUHC has accommodated the filmmakers by keeping a handful of rooms as they were when the hospital was operating, full of equipment. The rest of the equipment is in the process of being donated to hospitals across Quebec. 

As for the future of the Royal Vic: McGill University is the only one in the running to buy it, and the school is currently working on a feasibility study on what needs to be done to fix the site, which includes certain heritage buildings. 

The university's aim is to use the site for research labs and offices, with a third of area reserved for rental to businesses.

McGill's ambitious plan includes:

  • turning parking lots into green space
  • adding pathways to Mount Royal
  • building a 2,000 seat convocation hall. 

"It's an enlargement of the downtown campus of McGill," said Olivier Marcil, the university's vice-principal of external relations. "It's next door." 

​Montreal Children's Hospital: Snazzy options

The old Montreal Children's Hospital costs the MUHC a monthly average of $130,000 to maintain while sitting empty. (CBC)

After what was rumoured to be a competitive bidding process, Luc Poirier was confirmed as the buyer of the old Children's site in Nov. 2015. 

The high-profile developer has big plans for the area.

He's even floating the idea of building a major league baseball stadium in the space, although experts say it would be a tight squeeze, and Poirier told CBC the mayor isn't favourable to the idea.

"Denis Coderre doesn't want any place except the Bassin Peel," Poirier said. "I don't know why. Most American [investors] prefer the Children's or another downtown site." 

The developer said his plan is still very preliminary, but it will include a mix of condos, offices and seniors' residences. Poirier is even in discussions with two hotel chains keen to be part of the project. 

The deal is currently in the final due-diligence phase, and the old hospital should officially change hands sometime this year.

Only one section of the old hospital, the Gilman Pavilion on Atwater Avenue, is excluded from the sale. It still houses the hospital's dentistry and adolescent medicine departments.

Chest Institute: Deal nearly done

The sale of the Montreal Chest Institute is in its final stages. The name of the buyer has not yet been made public. (Charles Contant/CBC)

The sale of the former site of the Montreal Chest Institute, on 3666 Saint-Urbain Street, is also close to final approval.

"We're fairly advanced in the process," said Richard Fahey, the MUHC's director of public affairs, adding that the deal should be closed sometime in 2016.

The buyer has not been made public, nor has the selling price for the Chest Institute.

When the MUHC submitted the plan for the Glen site, it had listed the financial target for all three legacy sites – the Montreal Children's Hospital, the Montreal Chest Institute and the Royal Victoria Hospital – as $177 million.

Montreal Shriners Hospital: On the market 

The Montreal Shriners hospital spent 90 years at the old location on Cedar Avenue before moving to the Glen site in October 2015. (CBC)

The Montreal Shriners Hospital also moved to the Glen site last year, and its old location on Cedar Avenue is on the market.

Several offers were made and one was studied seriously, but it didn't pan out. The Shriners organization is now once again asking for bids.


Salimah Shivji


Salimah Shivji is CBC's India correspondent, based in Mumbai. She has been a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau and has covered everything from climate change to corruption across Canada.