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MUHC and community groups forge a tighter alliance
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 17 mai 2012

Courtesy photo

Jean Paiement, CSSS de la Montagne; Lisa Bornstein, CURA; Halah Al-Ubaidi, NDG Community Council; Bridget Blackadder, Contactivity Centre; Maureen Keily, Westmount Municipal Association; Normand Rinfret, MUHC; Francine Dumont, CDEC CDN-NDG; Denis Lévesque, CSSS of Southwest Verdun; Pierre Morrissette, RESO; Shannon Franssen, Solidarité St-Henri; Claude Lauzon, CDEC CDN-NDG

The Concertation Inter-Quartiers (CIQ) has hammered out a new addendum to its original 2004 partnership agreement with the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) that promises that both sides will work together to mitigate any negative effects the new hospital complex might have on their communities.

“The reality is that community groups don’t necessarily have decision-making roles and we wanted to find new ways to change that,” says CIQ spokesperson Shannon Franssen. The $2.35 billion MUHC Glen site development only opens in 2015, but already it has made its stamp on the area with short-term road closures. Surrounding neighbourhood groups want to make sure that the long-term impact of the massive project will benefit their communities, not harm them. The CIQ represents Côte-des-Neiges, Westmount, St. Henri and Verdun.

“This new phase of our partnership with the MUHC outlines common objectives we’re going to work on concretely with the hospital over the next three years,” says Frannsen. The objectives include issues related to employment, economic development, urban planning, housing and transportation.

“This hospital-neighbourhood partnership is the first of its kind in Quebec,” says Pierre Major, interim director of redevelopment, planning and real estate for the MUHC.

“When major institutions come into a neighbourhood they have the effect of significantly modifying that neighbourhood,” says Franssen. One major concern for the CIQ is the potential gentrification of neighbourhoods by an increased demand for new condo developments and higher housing prices. “Our low-income residents are already finding it harder to find affordable housing,” she says.

But Pierre Major believes the MUHC doctors and staff will not be moving en masse to be nearer their place of work. “We did studies in 2005 that showed only a low percentage wanted to move. These studies have shown the arrival of the MUHC would not have a major impact on what’s already happening in the sector in terms of new housing construction.”

Unemployment rates in the area could be eased though with the arrival of the MUHC. The partnership agreement specifies the MUHC “will participate in awareness-raising activities with a view to considering local hiring where appropriate.” For example, jobs will be available in the parking garage, and florist shops and cafes will open up. Local businesses might get a boost from the agreement as well, with an MUHC purchasing policy that encourages local businesses to register as qualified suppliers of goods and services in contracts worth $25,000 or less.

The CIQ and the MUHC will hold more meetings in the coming months to talk about economic development and the details of their agreement. One issue still to be resolved is whether a tunnel or an elevated passageway should link the site with the office building at 5100 de Maisonneuve. “The partnership agreement ensures we work toward positive solutions for some of the issues the hospital raises for our communities,” says Franssen.

The MUHC holds another of its Good Neighbourly Relations Committee meetings, open to the public, on May 29 at 7 p.m. at 5100 de Maisonneuve.

[ Gerri Barrer ]

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