MONTREAL -- Several dozen people demonstrated outside the old Royal Victoria hospital site on Friday, saying they're worried it'll be sold to developers.

The demonstrators were local residents, some of whom were affiliated with community groups, and they argued that the building should stay in public hands.

"I think privatization continues to price people out of their own neighbourhood," said Christa Smith of the Community Council of Peter-McGill.

"A neighbourhood should look like its residents, and the residents should be allowed to create the neighbourhood in their image."

The city is studying the future of the coveted building, but the protesters said there had been no public consultation and that one is needed.

One man who attended said that with a drastic need for affordable housing in Montreal right now, he'd like to see it turned into non-condo housing -- or a "senior citizens' home of quality," or an eco-village that provided housing while taking advantage of its home on the side of Mont-Royal.

Right now, the old hospital building is being used as a shelter. It has served as an overflow shelter in past winters but was set up in the longer term for that purpose earlier in the pandemic, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among Montreal's homeless population. It was also used to keep homeless patients in isolation if they contracted the virus.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante announced last week that it would remain a shelter until March 31, 2021.

The descendants of the Scottish-born benefactors who originally donated the land used for the complex of buildings, which have been parcelled off in different ways over the last few years, have also said they're against any part of it going into private hands.