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Is $45M for museum renovations money well spent?

MONTREAL – The Olympic Stadium has garnered a lot of attention over the years as an expensive publicly funded space that has deteriorated. So the notion that $45 million spent on improving three museums at the complex may seem like throwing good money after bad.

But one analyst in public expenses actually views the money as being well spent.

“Montreal unfortunately has been more worried about the cost of building a project, or the cost of starting something,” said Karim Boulos, a public expense analyst.

A proposed renovation of the city’s insectarium, its botanical garden and the Biodome actually demonstrates a welcome commitment to the maintenance of public spaces, Boulos said.

“Now that it’s been 20 years since we’ve made the [old] Velodrome, into the Biodome, it’s due.”

To this end, an international architecture competition is being held that organizers hope will introduce bold new designs for the three museums. Organizers are hoping for “something distinctive, something that allows us to fall in love with nature, to protect it,” said Charles-Mathieu Brunelle, of Space for Life, the organization that runs the three museums.

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An estimated 2.5 million tourists visited the three museums last year. But officials were taken to task on how many more tourists the improvements could furnish.

“I wouldn’t say they buy tourists,” said Manon Gauthier, of Montreal’s executive committee. “But I think that as we’re heading for the 375th anniversary, we’re hoping this institution will shine, both here and abroad.”

The architectural competition will involve an international jury that is set to decide the winning entry by July.

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