Take a tour of Université de Montréal's sparkling new campus
The site, which has both admirers and detractors, officially opened to the public Friday
Just a few years ago, it was nothing more than a rail yard — a vast tract of fenced-off land in the middle of Montreal, cutting off Parc-Extension from the tonier borough of Outremont.
On Friday, the new $350-million Université de Montréal science complex officially opened to the public.
Known as the "MIL campus," the new space is replete with gleaming glass buildings and laboratories, along with new streets, three parks and a public square.
"In just a few years, we have transformed a rail yard into a neighbourhood that is a great place to live, study and work," said Guy Breton, the university's rector.
That transformation has not come without a price, say community activists in Parc-Ex, one of Montreal's poorest neighbourhoods.
"The reality has been that for the residents of Parc-Extension this has nothing to celebrate," said Amy Darwish, an organizer with the Comité d'action de Parc-Extension, who was among the protesters on hand for Friday's announcement.
"Over the last few months, we've been hearing a lot of stories of tenants facing evictions, housing repossessions, harassment and discrimination from landlords who only want to rent to students and professionals."
Darwish said the university needs to build student housing, and the city should develop more social housing to allow long-time residents to stay in the neighbourhood.
The campus and surrounding area total 118 hectares, including a new east-west artery, Thérèse-Lavoie-Roux Street, which runs from Durocher Street to McEachran Avenue in Outremont.
The university says that street will eventually be extended to Parc Avenue.
A north-south footbridge passes over the railroad tracks and connects the campus to the Acadie Metro station, on l'Acadie Boulevard at Beaumont Avenue.
According to U de M officials, it was the largest university construction project in Canada — and the fourth-largest construction project in Quebec.
Breton was joined Friday by a lengthy list of politicians, including Premier François Legault and Mayor Valérie Plante.
With files from Arian Zarrinkoub