McGill has entered the preliminary stages of purchasing the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) on located on University Street and Avenue des Pins, expected to be vacated by 2015. According to McGill Vice-Principal of Administration and Finance Michael Di Grappa, the RVH building would provide the university with much needed additional space, as McGill currently lacks approximately 700,000 gross square feet for academic needs.
“We anticipate using this space for a wide range of academic activities that would include most facets of the university’s operation, including research, teaching, large events, and other aspects of university life,” Di Grappa said.
Di Grappa describes the amount of space necessary to meet the demand of the university as equivalent to four Bronfman buildings or three Burnside Buildings.
The RVH is owned by the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), which is opening a new medical center, the Glen, in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce next year.
“As part of this move, our Board of Directors indicated that these buildings would be surplus property, and that was in 2013,” said Julie Paquet, communications director for the MUHC. “That triggered a process with the government to see what we could do with those buildings.”
If the purchase of the RVH goes through, the building will undergo extensive renovations before it will be open for use by the McGill community.
“We envisage keeping the buildings that are part of Montreal’s architectural heritage, demolishing the non-heritage buildings in order to replace them [with] buildings that better match our needs for cutting edge teaching and research space,” Di Grappa said. “There would be considerable construction, probably over a period of up to five years.”
Furthermore, the purchase will require approval from the provincial government.
“We are hoping the Quebec government will soon announce that it has selected McGill University to prepare a ‘dossier d’opportunité,’ which includes feasibility and other technical studies,” said Di Grappa. “The results of these studies will help lead us to the next steps, and an eventual decision as to whether we should proceed with the project.”
If purchased, the cost of the RVH space would be met by a one-third contribution each from the federal government, provincial government, and McGill University.
“The university’s contribution could be amassed in a variety of ways, including through a special philanthropic campaign, and the sale of non-strategic buildings on the periphery of the downtown campus,” Di Grappa said.
At the present time, there are no other formal proposals by any other institution to purchase this space.
“Of course, we [at the MUHC] think McGill would serve as a great continuation of this institution,” says Paquet. “But that’s not really for us to decide. It is in the hands of the government.”
Julien Ouellet, external affairs officer at McGill’s Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), explained that the lack of space is a concern for McGill’s graduate students, particularly in terms of student office space.
“Graduate students are amongst the most [affected by] McGill’s space deficit,” he said. “We’ve heard that in many departments, office space is so limited that individuals resort to lotteries to determine who will get an office that year [….] The [space] at the RVH could help alleviate this problem.”