MUHC admits defeat, abandons plan to expand Montreal General
MONTREAL— CTV Montreal has learned that the McGill University Health Centre has admitted defeat and has shelved plans to expand the Montreal General Hospital, blaming Quebec’s health minister for a lack of support.
Last September, the MUHC received a stern rebuke from Montreal’s public consultation office for going ahead with the project without the permits required to transform 1750 Cedar Ave. into an outpatient clinic for the adjacent hospital.
In the months since, the MUHC had lobbied the municipal and provincial governments to allow it to go forward with its plan to connect the half-built condo tower to the hospital.
The lobbying was complicated by the location of the project, as the hospital was seeking to rezone a lot adjacent to Mount Royal from a residential area to institutional space. Citizens' groups like Heritage Montreal had opposed the rezoning, calling it an attack on the city’s green space.
The city rejected the project because it said the MUHC violated a 2008 heritage pact to protect Mount Royal, and not expand the facility beyond property lines.
Interim CEO and director general of the MUHC, Normand Rinfret, said they want to be good neighbors, and intend to move on.
“We had to make a decision. It muddied the water for what our future is going to be - not having obtained the zoning in order to be able to use it as a healthcare facility,” he said. “Basically it was to divest our investment and make sure we would have clarity about our future and the planning.”
In a document made available to CTV Montreal, interim CEO and director general of the MUHC Normand Rinfret made it clear he has backtracked and that the hospital will not expand beyond its current physical limits.
“We must also acknowledge that we failed to secure the support of our neighbours, our elected representatives and other Montrealers for our plans,” wrote Rinfret. “There are strong arguments from a public policy and a healthcare perspective to incorporate 1750 Cedar […] into the MGH.”
While the majority of the MUHC’s operations are being transferred to the superhospital being built in the Glen Yard at the edge of Notre-Dame-des-Grace, the General Hospital will remain as the group’s flagship hospital in downtown Montreal.
Without 1750 Cedar Ave., the MUHC will investigate alternative plans to expand the hospital and continue to give patient care within the existing building, which is the Montreal General Hospital.
Those plans are expected to be released by December. The hospital will also continue to undergo renovations as part of the MUHC’s superhospital project.
The outpatient clinic at 1750 Cedar Ave. was a large part of the MUHC’s plan to invest in the hospital and upgrade its offerings to the local community. With an expected price tag of $30 million, the building’s acquisition was also controversial, having been purchased from businessman Vincent Chiara by one of the MUHC’s not-for profit affiliates, Syscor.
Chiara had purchased the property for $3.6 million in 2007, with plans to build a 64-unit condo complex. MUHC officials have steadfastly refused to reveal how much Chiara was paid for the site.
The hospital will now put the land and concrete shell at 1750 Cedar Ave. on the market. The property will remain zoned as a residential area.