After the headlines | What’s new with the former Institute of the Deaf and Dumb? Not much…

A year ago almost to the day, the director of the Institute of Tourism and Hospitality of Quebec (ITHQ), Liza Frulla, uttered a heartfelt cry.

Read the text “Institut des Sourdes-Muettes: ‟I can’t believe that in Montreal, we’re letting this waste away””

She was sad that the former Institut des Sourdes-Muettes, a group of gray stone buildings bordered by Saint-Denis, Berri, Roy and Cherrier streets, had been abandoned for several years.

Mme Frulla saw in this site, among other things, an opportunity to accommodate his students.


The director of the Institute of Tourism and Hospitality of Quebec (ITHQ), Liza Frulla

We gave him a call to take stock of the situation, a year later. What she told us was discouraging. ” Nothing moves ! “, she says. The former Institute, which belongs to the Société des infrastructures du Québec (SQI), the real estate arm of the Quebec government, is still abandoned.

“I had two meetings with them and then nothing more,” adds Mme Frulla. I can’t recruit new students, I still don’t have room to accommodate them! »

A complicated project

Mme Frulla is realistic: reclassifying these abandoned buildings – “part of the walls of which must be filled with asbestos”, according to her – will not be an easy task. “There’s probably $500 or $600 million worth,” estimates the director of the ITHQ.

For this reason, the former Minister of Culture believes that the transformation of the site must go through a public-private partnership. “There are buildings that were built later and which have no heritage value,” she says. It’s boring to say, but let’s build condos. And let’s restore everything that is heritage. »

This inaction is all the more discouraging because a little further west, on the site of the former Royal Victoria Hospital, also owned by the SQI, things are progressing more quickly. And this, even if it is a more imposing and more complex site, because it backs onto Mount Royal Park. The difference is that McGill University has a vision to transform it. The educational establishment therefore acts as a real catalyst. Result: in 2021, just six years after the hospital closed, McGill’s plan was already submitted to the Office of Public Consultation of Montreal.

Meanwhile, on rue St-Denis, everything seems paralyzed. The Montreal Health and Social Services Agency, tenant of the Institut des Sourdes-Muettes, closed its doors the same year as the Royal Vic, in 2015. What are we waiting for?

“We are in a central neighborhood of Montreal, in the middle of a housing crisis, and we have a nice large parking lot on Saint-Denis Street. That doesn’t make any sense! », Adds Liza Frulla, who dreams of a student city east of Saint-Laurent, which would be developed in collaboration with the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).

The same answer

I of course gave the SQI a call. According to its spokespersons, things are indeed moving. “An analysis of the potential for revaluation of the site, which includes the evaluation of the heritage value of the various components, is underway,” they replied to me by email.

We also assure that “work is being carried out to identify the technical challenges linked to the requalification of the site (structural issues, compliance with codes, seismic protection, obsolescence of the various systems, water management, etc.). »

When I ask the SQI if there is a timetable, a date on which we could present the beginning of a vision, I am told that “the various works listed, started several months ago, will specify the next steps with the objective of “identify and define the best project for this site”.

Do you see a hint of urgency or eagerness in this response? Not me.

The SQI answered me essentially the same thing as it answered my colleague Philippe Teisceira-Lessard a year ago.

On the side of the City of Montreal, which procrastinated for several years before giving up on developing the site itself, I do not observe any sense of urgency either.

The Plante administration had developed a vision that provided for a residence for ITHQ students, social housing, a CPE and offices for the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough. But so far, no one has raised their hand to make this vision a reality.

In addition, we do not feel that the Plante administration is putting a lot of pressure on the SQI to achieve anything. The head of housing, Benoit Dorais, refused to grant me an interview on this subject. Through his press secretary, he let me know that the City was in waiting mode. “The SQI knows that we are impatiently waiting for a project to be submitted to us on this location,” we responded by text message.

I would have thought that in the middle of the housing crisis, our municipal elected officials would be in “emergency” mode. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

In the meantime, the more the old Institute for the Deaf and Dumb deteriorates, the more it will cost to give it a new lease of life. An additional example, if one were needed, of the inertia of public authorities in the face of the housing crisis.

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