Montreal is pulling the plug on a sixth tower on the former site of the Montreal Children’s Hospital because the developer has refused to include social housing.
“At a certain point, you have to put your pants on,” Mayor Valérie Plante told reporters at city hall on Monday, before the start of the monthly council meeting.
The project, approved in 2017, was supposed to include 180 social housing units, but the developer has now dropped those from the plan, which now calls only for luxury condos, she said.
That’s why Plante announced her administration would table a notice of motion for a bylaw to amend the 2017 bylaw authorizing the project. The amendment, rescinding permission to build the sixth tower, will be adopted at October’s council meeting.
Plante said her administration had tried to discuss the need for social housing on the site with developer Philip Kerub of High-Rise Montreal, but was rebuffed.
She said she’s still open to discussion, in case the developer changes his mind.
In council, the mayor said that “a social contract” had been made with the developer to include units for people on low incomes.
Social housing is “cruelly, cruelly lacking” in the western part of downtown, she noted.
“The developer does not want to honour the social contract, does not want to honour his obligations,” Plante said.
The inclusion of social housing was the reason why the city swept aside a recommendation by Montreal’s public-consultation bureau — the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) — not to allow a sixth tower on the site, Plante said. Since that condition hasn’t been respected, the deal’s off, she said.
Once the city rescinds approval for the 20-storey tower on René Lévesque Blvd. W., east of the only surviving hospital building on the site, the zoning will revert to what it was before. That means the developer will only have the right to build a four-storey structure there, she said.
Corey Gulkin, a communications officer with the Peter-McGill Community Council, welcomed the news. “We’re not giving up yet on having social housing on the site and it’s heartening to see that the mayor is not giving up either,” she said.
In July, community organizations staged a demonstration at a Ville-Marie borough council meeting to demand affordable housing on the site.
On June 12, 2017, the city modified its zoning plan to allow construction of the controversial commercial-residential complex between René-Lévesque Blvd., Atwater Ave., Tupper St. and Sussex St.
The project was also supposed to include a school, but that was dropped from the plan in 2018 when developer Devimco said talks had not advanced and it needed to break ground on the Square Children’s development.
Residents were also bitterly disappointed by the small amount of space reserved as a park, after years of promises from the city that a sizeable park would be created.
In its 2017 report, the OCPM said the high-rise project was far too dense for the site, should include more green space and should be modified so its architecture would harmonize better with its surroundings.
The Montreal Gazette was unable to reach the developer.