Martin C. Barry
Officials from three levels of government were among the dignitaries who turned out on Sept. 20 for the official opening of the new Science Complex at the University of Montreal’s MIL campus in the former Outremont train yard on the south side of Park Extension.
Social housing demo
Among the guests were Quebec Premier François Legault, Montreal mayor Valérie Plante, Villeray/St-Michel/Parc Extension Borough Mayor Giuliana Fumagalli, Park Extension city councillor Mary Deros and several key ministers in the Coalition Avenir Québec government.
The event was interrupted momentarily when some representatives of the Comité d’Action de Parc Extension (CAPE) who were in a gallery overlooking the ceremonies began shouting while dropping leaflets to the floor below.
The protesters, who also staged a quiet demonstration outside, maintained that “the arrival of the Campus MIL is contributing to the gentrification of Parc-Extension and threatening the social fabric of the neighbourhood.”
They also claimed that a target of 225 social housing units set in the City of Montreal’s urban, economic and social development plan (PDUES) hasn’t been respected, since to date, they say, only one 54-unit cooperative project has been built.
Redeveloped train yard
The opening of the massive science complex comprising two connected buildings marks the successful completion of phase one in the redevelopment of the former train yard that was familiar to generations of Park Exers.
For the administration at the U of M, it was also the culmination of a gruelling 13-year process involving extensive public consultations.
Having reached the limits for building new educational facilities at the U of M’s main campus on the southern edge of Mount Royal, they decided their best course was to acquire the train yard and turn it into a secondary campus supplemented by streets and housing.
‘Superb, modern, attractive’
Phase one alone is costing $350 million, with the provincial government contributing $145 million and the federal government giving $84 million. The remaining $116 million is being paid by the university.
“Three words come to mind: superb, modern and attractive,” Premier Legault said in an address to the crowd of guests, including students who had already begun studying at the new science complex. Legault called the new campus a major plus for the Montreal region as well as for the rest of Quebec and “something we should be proud of.”
Pedestrian viaduct open
For Park Extension, an important element of the project that is now operational is a pedestrian viaduct, leading from Beaumont Ave. at the corner of l’Acadie Blvd. over several sets of railway tracks and into the U of M campus.
The viaduct helps resolve a problem Park Extension has had for generations, namely being “enclaved” or locked in on several sides because of boundaries such as Autoroute 40 at the north end, the CP railway line in the east and the notorious fence along l’Acadie Blvd. in the west separating Park Ex from Town of Mount Royal.
While Borough Mayor Fumagalli told Nouvelles Parc Extension News she was pleased the pedestrian overpass is now a reality, she questioned whether it is fulfilling everything the borough had asked for.
“I was under the impression that it was going to be a little more accessible,” she said, noting that it’s not clear yet whether there will be wheelchair access from Beaumont Ave. “But I can’t imagine that it’s not in the works.”
Deros proud to be part
Park Extension city councillor Mary Deros said she was especially proud to see the campus finally taking shape since she actively contributed to the initial consultations and studies for the project.
“To see the fruition of all the efforts of all the levels of government is pure joy for me,” she said. “Through this project, we will be helping to form the minds of all these young students who have aspirations in their studies and in their vision of becoming innovators. And I am so proud to have been part of this from the beginning.”