After sitting abandoned for five years, a local advocacy group is hoping to spark the rebirth of the Jacques Viger Hospital complex.

Marc-Andre Fortin, spokesperson for the Faubourg St-Laurent consultation board, said the site would be a prime area for low-income housing.

“We have to focus on public sites like this one that already belong to the public,” he said. “We have enough money with public funds to just renovate it and offer it to low-income families and people in general.”

The building was first constructed by the nun order of Les Soeurs de Misericorde in the 1853 as a shelter for unwed mothers and orphans. Additions were made to the complex throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, eventually taking up an entire city block.

Ownership of the building was eventually taken over by the province, who used it as a long-term care facility.

“There was a clause in the transfer that indicated that this site should always be used for social and health purposes,” said Fortin.

Fortin’s group is asking the City of Montreal to purchase the building from the provincial Health Ministry.

He estimated the building could house 160 housing units, a third of which would have three or four bedrooms. Along with the subsidizing houses, Fortin said he hopes to see the space converted into a museum and artists workshops and a wing for Maison du Pere, a shelter and resource center for homeless men over the age of 25.

Maison du Pere president Francois Boissy said there’s a need for semi-autonomous units for an aging homeless population.

“It would benefit our older population, men 55 years and over,” he said. “We have a residence here at Maison du Pere for about 88 men, which has been full since 2002.”

Ville Marie city councillor Robert Beaury said the project is an interesting one and plans on meeting with some of those involved at the end of the month, but added that the city must evaluate the building’s condition.