Old Montreal | Federal courthouse project sparks concern

Heritage defenders are concerned about seeing Ottawa build a new courthouse that could reach around ten floors in the heart of Old Montreal, without the public being able to see the project.

What there is to know

  • Ottawa is building a courthouse for federal courts in Old Montreal.
  • The construction began without the public knowing what the building would look like, creating concern.
  • Tender documents from 2020 called for a 10-story building.

The court complex, in the works since at least 2018, will house offices and courtrooms for federal courts. It will cost nearly 160 million.

The construction site began a few weeks ago on the large vacant lot which overlooks both rue Saint-Jacques and rue Notre-Dame, a stone’s throw from Place d’Armes. The premises were used as parking since the 1960s until early 2024.

“We are worried because we have not received any official information,” lamented Christine Caron, administrator of the Association of Residents of Old Montreal. The group was not consulted on the project. “We are in a historic district and we have concerns about that. Will it fit in well with the environment in architectural terms? »

“Faced with such opacity, we can only be concerned,” added Dinu Bumbaru, of Héritage Montréal. His organization was not able to see any images of the project either. He stressed that the federal government had already made mistakes in heritage matters.

” There Cultural Heritage Law of Quebec does not apply »

M’s fearsme Caron and Mr. Bumbaru are all the greater because constitutionally, Ottawa does not have to respect provincial legislation or municipal regulations in its construction projects. As Old Montreal is a heritage site, the Ministry of Culture must usually look into the slightest renovation project that could change the appearance of a building in the area.

“Since the land targeted by the project is under federal jurisdiction, the Cultural Heritage Law of Quebec does not apply,” the Ministry confirmed Monday by email. “Authorization from the Minister of Culture and Communications is therefore not required for this project. »

“Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) nevertheless presented to the Ministry of Culture and Communications its construction project which is located in the Montreal heritage site. »

Mute Ottawa

The federal government refused to grant an interview to The Press on the project, simply relaying information that is already public.

“Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) will build a federal judicial complex in Old Montreal,” said communications advisor Sonia Tengelsen by email.

“The building will house the Courts Administrative Service (SATJ) as well as the four courts attached to it, namely the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada and the Court Canadian tax. » She added “that an announcement should be made soon”.

“We are in contact with the federal government and we expect that the federal government’s project will respect the character of the neighborhood and that it will be quickly presented to the population,” reacted the office of the mayor and the executive committee of the City of Montreal.

143 million under construction

The firms Architecture 49 and Perkins & Will were selected to design the new federal courthouse, which will be located very close to its provincial counterpart. Their contract is worth 14 million.

According to tender documents from 2020, Ottawa expected to pay a maximum of 85 million for the construction of the building. The construction contract was finally awarded to the Pomerleau company in 2021. Current cost of the contract: 143 million.

“The new Montreal judicial complex (NCJM) will consist of a gross area of ​​approximately 12,708 m⁠2 on approximately nine (9) floors above ground, plus a basement parking level and a technical lean-to level on the roof,” indicates a federal document.

According to a study distributed to interested firms, the height of the building would be much higher on rue Saint-Jacques than on rue Notre-Dame.

Tender documents indicate that federal judges will benefit from underground parking and access allowing them to move around in complete safety.

In addition to the regular federal courts, the building will house the offices of a dozen administrative tribunals reporting to Ottawa.

All these bodies are currently housed in rented buildings on McGill Street. Their leases expire “in March 2027”, specify the documents.s. “It is essential that the schedule developed is respected in order to allow users to move to the new building as quickly as possible. (…) This date cannot be postponed. »

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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