The Sanaaq community center is expensive for the City of Montreal

The future Sanaaq community center, located on the grounds of the former Montreal Children’s Hospital, is expensive for the City of Montreal. Even though the building is still unoccupied, the City has been paying rent since last January and the bill is now close to a million dollars. And last July, it had to cancel a call for tenders for the interior fittings work due to the high cost of the tenders received.

In the wake of a call for tenders launched last March for the development of the center, Montreal received three bids. The lowest, that of the Geyser Group, reached nearly 38 million dollars, while the highest, of Hulix Construction, climbed to 47.9 million.

The call for tenders was canceled in July “because the amount of the Geyser Group’s bid was much higher than the estimated costs”, indicated in an email to the To have to Hugo Bourgoin, Public Relations Officer at the City of Montreal.

It was not possible on Friday to obtain the amount of the estimate set by the City to specify the difference between the bids and the estimate. In May 2020, the City’s documents, however, established the cost of these development works at 13.8 million.

The City indicates that a new call for tenders will be launched “soon”.

Expensive rent

Still, the City will have to continue to pay rent to Devimco, owner of the land where it is located, even if the building will remain empty for at least a year and a half. Because the City estimates at 18 months the duration of the interior fittings work that will be carried out when a contract can be awarded.

Since January 15, 2022, the City has been paying a monthly pension of $124,240, to which taxes are added. The 40-year agreement with Devimco is expected to total $68.6 million, including taxes. At this time, the City is unable to specify the date of the opening of the community center.

The Sanaaq community center, located on the ground floor of two Square Children’s towers, has two floors and will eventually include a performance and exhibition hall, a library and socio-community spaces. The name “Sanaaq” is inspired by the title of an Inuit novel written in the 1950s by author Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk.

The Square Children’s real estate project has made the headlines several times over the past few years. In 2015, Quebec sold the site of the former Montreal Children’s Hospital to developer Luc Poirier for $25 million. He had sold it to Devimco and High-Rise Montreal (HRM). The Square Children’s project provided, in addition to condo towers, the construction of a primary school and 174 social housing units in Tower 6 of the building complex. The school project could not be carried out and the social housing project was abandoned for lack of an agreement between the City and HRM. The dispute over social housing has also given rise to a lawsuit for 20 million from the promoter HRM against the City and Mayor Valérie Plante.

During the consultations held last spring by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) on the project for Tower 6 of Square Children’s, neighborhood community groups, including the Peter-McGill Neighborhood Table, deplored the abandonment of the school and social housing project, but also the high cost of the Sanaaq community center project. “Not only has the primary school project not been possible, but the Sanaaq community center will cost taxpayers a fortune since the City does not own the space, but rather rents it, and at great expense to boot” , underlined the Peter-McGill neighborhood committee in its brief submitted to the OCPM.

Community groups have also called for a public inquiry into the management of the file of the former hospital by the City of Montreal.

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