A Montreal-area convent is closing its doors after more than 200 years, prompting fears from local residents that the property’s historical significance will be lost to redevelopment.

The Notre Dame du Vieux Moulin in Pointe-Claire has been home to nuns since 1787, but now the stone convent is shutting its doors. The decision to close was handed down by the building’s owner, St. Joachim Parish. The building’s fate is still unknown, but the remaining 19 sisters who reside there have been told that they’ll have to leave.

The convent, which sits on the shore of Lake Saint-Louis, also served as a school for many years. Some of the sisters who reside there say that the reason for the move is because there are fewer nuns still living there. Given the convent’s history, many want to ensure the building is preserved.

But Point-Claire Mayor Morris Trudeau said it’s too costly to operate the building.

“I believe heating alone is somewhere in the vicinity of $80,000 a year,” Trudeau said.

Currently, the convent is considered a heritage site, and is zoned for a school or retirement home. Officials say it would be difficult to amend the zoning, but many fear the waterfront property could be bought by condo developers.

Claude Arsenault, of the Pointe-Claire Preservation Society, said the city should be taking steps to preserve the historical gem.

“Many experts in history, architecture, in archaeology – all of them in the report said it’s exceptional,” he said. “And the city should care.”

But Trudeau said council too, wants to protect the site.

“Obviously, condominiums would not fit in a historical site,” he said. “It would not be in line with protecting the site.”

Arsenault says the city should buy the convent.

“If they buy it, it means it will make sure it cannot be developed as something else,” Arsenault said. “What will be nice is to have access to the public.”

The remaining 19 nuns have until December to find a new home.

With a report from CTV Montreal’s Natalie Nanowski