Fortier to Montreal: let’s work together

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier confirmed Friday McGill’s interest in developing the soon-to-be-vacant Royal Victoria Hospital campus as an urban project that would benefit not only McGill but Montreal. In her first major speech to an external community since becoming Principal last fall, Prof. Fortier told about 500 people at a Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal (Chambre de Commerce) luncheon that McGill wants to be a better partner with the community and its various elements.

By McGill Reporter Staff

Principal Suzanne Fortier delivers her first major address to Montreal since becoming Principal last fall.

After sharing her delight at being able to return to Montreal, Prof. Fortier outlined many of the themes she had expressed to the McGill community in an address on March 28. She said universities have an increasingly important role to play in their community and in all aspects of the city’s evolution.

“My objective is that McGill be part of the team: the team that prepares the ground as we move forward in a knowledge-based society, the team that makes Montreal a cultural metropolis, the team that invests in the future, the team that makes Montreal shine on the international stage,” Prof. Fortier said.

She noted that, “the Université de Montréal is developing a new science campus in a former rail yard in Outremont, UQAM is an integral part of the Quartier des spectacles, Concordia is contributing to the revitalization of its neighbourhood with Quartier Concordia and the École de technologie supérieure and McGill are developing together the Quartier de l’innovation, south of downtown.”

After a dynamic video presentation about McGill, the Principal took note of a number of outstanding student accomplishments and examples of engagement in the Montreal community.

She spoke about the importance of research and how McGill will help encourage researchers to take risks, which is often when the most significant breakthroughs are made.

Speaking to the largely business audience, Prof. Fortier acknowledged that it can prove complicated for companies to do business with a complex organization such as McGill. To facilitate interactions between McGill and its community, the University recently created the McGill University Business Engagement Centre (MUBEC). MUBEC is a one-stop-shop for any company wishing to seek out the expertise of McGill researchers or to hire students, a “centre that prevents you from having to find your way through the maze that a large university like ours represents,” the Principal said.

But it was the ideas she proffered about the Royal Vic that captivated her audience the most.

The RVH, which has stood on the slopes of Mount Royal for more than 120 years, is due to close and move, along with the Montreal Children’s Hospital and other medical institutions, to the new MUHC hospital now under construction at the old Glen Yards in N.D.G. as early as 2015.

Surrounded by McGill installations, including the Neuro, residence buildings and the Allan Memorial Institute, the Royal Vic site provides a significant opportunity for the University – and for Montreal, she said.

“McGill suffers from a well-known shortage of space and few possibilities for expansion on its downtown campus,” Prof. Fortier said, referring to the fact that the downtown campus is landlocked, with very little room to grow. “The relocation of the Royal Victoria Hospital presents a unique opportunity that we must look at closely.

“We are still in the early stages but if the right conditions are there, the project could be launched for the 375th anniversary of Montreal in 2017 and could open to the public when McGill celebrates its 200th in 2021.”

McGill would take the site, which is in serious need of renovation, and, with help from all three levels of government, transform it into a teaching, research and meeting space – a “Carrefour” – that would connect Quebec and the world, Prof. Fortier said.

The urban development project would proceed in consultation with the Montreal community. It would preserve heritage buildings, offer significant new green spaces, and provide a new public pathway to Mount Royal from downtown, she said.

Prof. Fortier concluded by reiterating McGill’s commitment to help Montreal thrive. “Montreal has all it needs to ensure its success. Let’s dare to develop a winning attitude. Montreal can count on me and on McGill.”

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10 years ago

I truly hope that this comes to fruition. The RVH would provide McGill with enough space for the next century. The Scottish Baronial buildings, circa 1900, should be restored and the bland additions from the 1950’s should be at least partially demolished to “open up the skyline”, to quote Principal Fortier.

10 years ago

I am excited at the prospects of McGill incorporating the RVH site. I agree with the above commenter. I think the angular architecture of McGill and RVH with Mount Royal at the background and the greenary in combination with downtown Montreal gives McGill a vibrant and friendly environment.

10 years ago

Yes, I agree as well. This is an excellent idea, and one that has been hinted at for a little while now. I am really excited to see that it is being seriously considered by the administration. I truly hope this comes to realization. I think it is the most suitable option for the site as RVH is relocating, and a great investment for McGill in the long run.