Friday, 7 June 2013

Location, Location, Location: the Story Behind Montreal's Mega Hospitals and the Future of Mount Royal

An extremely important conference is being held today on the future of Mount Royal--but it may be too late.  In a couple of years, four health establishments on the flanks of the mountain will be vacated as they move to two super hospitals now under construction. 

Getting agreement on where to build them took a couple of decades, and the awarding of construction contracts is a saga in its self.  Collusion, cost over-runs and even criminal proceedings against one of the major administrators have come out in recent months too. (Dr. Arthur Porter, the Montreal Hospital Centre's former head, is now fighting extradition from Panama.)

But relatively little has been said about what will become of the property which is now used for health purposes. (The photo is of the Royal Victoria Hospital surrounded by the greenery of Mount Royal Park, to give some idea of what's at stake.)  Not only were no studies done at the beginning of the projects of their impact on the city's urban fabric, few have been the questions raised about who might profit from, say, transforming the old buildings with their spectacular views into condos.

Which brings us to the heart of the matter: it seems to me that one of the motors behind the super hospital push from the beginning was real estate speculation.  Who turned a blind eye to this possiblity?  Who's going to profit? 

Not those who love Mount Royal Park, I bet. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I said that from the outset, and I'm sure I'm far from the only person who has speculated about speculation. There are sound reasons places with high elevations with beautiful views were chosen for hospitals. If you can scarcely get out of bed, or at least scarcely leave your room, wouldn't it raise your spirits to look out at greenery and trees, or a snowy winterscape?

On eastern side, Hôtel-Dieu's view looks upward towards the mountain, but its oldest buildings are far earlier; it is a foundational heritage site.

We can also look northwards towards Laval and the "sauvage" disregard for agricultural zoning and wetlands. Cities have to expand if they grow, but if Laval had chosen to protect those areas and a higher-density development - not all high-rises, just Mtl density, the situation would have been very different.