What’s in store for the Royal Victoria Hospital?

The historic Royal Vic hospital will soon be empty.

MONTREAL – Sitting at the foot of Mont-Royal lies a piece of Montreal’s history. Looking more like a baronial manor than a medical facility, the Royal Victoria Hospital is slated to empty out in April, but what will happen after that is hardly set in stone.

“It’s a work in progress,” said the city’s mayor, Denis Coderre. “I think that we need to do something about it. We need to protect the heritage.”

The obvious choice to take the hospital over is McGill University, whose campus surrounds the building. While McGill and the MUHC have an arm’s-length affiliation, they are separately incorporated. But the university won’t be ready to move in until a feasibility study is completed, which will take at least a year, officials say. And while McGill seems keen on acquiring the land, it has already signalled it won’t do so at any price.

“It’s an important opportunity for us,” said Olivier Marcil, the university’s vice principal of external relations. “But we have to approach this prudently, it’s not a done deal. There are a lot of things we have to look for.”

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One of those things is the wishes of the descendants of the two families who originally donated the land. According to McGill, they have a wide amount of discretion concerning how it can be used. McGill’s ability to pay for the renovations — slated to take 15 years at a cost of $850 million — is also a factor. The committee recommends the university cover a third of the cost, with contributions from the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

Coderre said he is going to meet with provincial officials next week in an attempt to hammer out a plan for the hospital.

“We’re all working together because we don’t want to create kind of a ghost village there,” he said.

The hospital, which is more than 100 years old, was the site of Canada’s first kidney transplant in 1958, and the site of much of the research performed by famed Dr. Wilder Penfield. With the new “Super Hospital” coming online, the Pine Ave. facility will soon become obsolete.