Old Philosophy College: OCPM Recommends More Modest Project in Keeping with Mount Royal Protection Regulations
Montréal, August 11, 2009 – The Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) makes public today the report on the consultation held in the spring on the development project for the site of the old Philosophy College in the borough of Ville-Marie, within the boundaries of the historic and natural borough of Mont-Royal.
The project consists in converting into housing units the old Philosophy College building on Côte-des-Neiges Road, occupied until recently by Marianopolis College, and in constructing residential buildings on part of the surrounding land. Some 325 housing units are planned. The project calls for the repurposing of the old College, the construction of new buildings ranging from three to nine storeys in height, and the addition of a 656-space underground parking garage.
The project requires amendments to the Montréal Master Plan and the urban planning by-law of the borough of Ville-Marie. The consultation had to take into account the Mount Royal Master Protection and Enhancement Plan adopted in April. Moreover, as the draft by-law amending the zoning by-law of the borough of Ville-Marie was adopted pursuant to Section 89, subparagraph 5 of the Charter of Ville de Montréal, it is partly subject to approval by referendum.
Hundreds of people attended the information sessions. More than 60 of them posed questions to the developer or the City, and 60 people formally expressed their points of view. Most of those who spoke were opposed to the project, at least in its current format. Many think that it goes against the objectives of the Mount Royal Master Protection and Enhancement Plan (MRMPEP). Others believe that it is not sufficiently thought-out, given the exceptional nature of the site. According to them, the project should be reviewed and enhanced. Lastly, some found the project acceptable, as it allows the protection of the built heritage and surrounding natural areas.
Given the fact that the mountain’s heritage is of community-wide interest, conversion projects for major sites and institutional buildings located in the historic and natural borough of Mont-Royal cannot be treated as ordinary development projects. The conversion project for the site of the Philosophy College is the first to be submitted for public examination following the adoption of the MRMPEP by city council.
Given the lack of purchase offers from the public sector, the commission finds that the residential vocation and sale to private interests of a building the Sulpicians no longer want is a plausible option, so long as the development concept allows for exemplary natural and cultural heritage preservation and enhancement, and does not increase physical or visual obstructions between Parc du Mont-Royal and the city. The commission referred to the MRMPEP in conducting its analysis and paid particular attention to each of the eight concerns outlined by city council in its public consultation mandate.
The development project for the site of the old College has some positive aspects, such as the restoration of the old College building and commemorative monuments, the preservation of the wooded areas and plant life, underground parking, limited automobile access, and the willingness to continue to allow public access to the site, whether to enjoy the surrounding or to reach Mount Royal.
However, some aspects of the project present problems, primarily in terms of respecting views and zones that should remain free of all residential construction. Other concerns have to do with the conditions of public access to the site and upholding of commitments made by the developer’s and co-owners. The commission recommends that the conservation zones identified in the studies be kept free of construction, that the height of some of the buildings be lowered to preserve views from the Cedar/Côte-des-Neiges intersection, and that the landscaped area in the eastern portion of the site be preserved. This would result in a smaller-scale project with a smaller footprint. Lastly, the commission recommends that public right of access to the site be formalized, with a pedestrian pathway crossing the site towards the mountain, and that the development agreement and easements be strengthened to ensure long-term maintenance of commitments made by the developer.
All available information pertaining to the consultation, as well as a copy of the report, may be obtained at the OCPM offices, the Direction du greffe de la Ville de Montréal, 275 Notre-Dame Street East, and the Ville-Marie borough office, 888 de Maisonneuve Boulevard East, 5th floor. The documentation is also available on the Office Web site, at www.ocpm.qc.ca. For information, please call 514 872-8510.
– 30 –
Tel.: 514 872-3568
Cell: 514 977-8365