Women’s shelter Chez Doris is looking to expand its reach in Montreal’s downtown core to fill what it calls a growing need by purchasing the century-old Fulford Residence.
“There is a great social benefit of creating social housing, affordable housing. It is a real detriment to see so many homeless people in Montreal,” Chez Doris executive director Marina Boulos said.
Sitting empty since last June, the Fulford Residence building along Guy Street is at the centre of a potential hot bidding war.
The green jewel of a home has a rich, longstanding history in Montreal’s Peter McGill district.
Established at the Guy location in 1890 by the Anglican Church, the space was a safe haven for countless women over the past century.
More recently it was a women’s seniors residence until it closed last summer.
“Montreal is no longer an affordable city,” Boulos said.
Chez Doris hopes to purchase and renovate the aging space using money acquired from a federal grant to expand the much-needed social housing network in the downtown core.
Over the past two years since the pandemic began, Boulos says homelessness among their members at the shelter has doubled.
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Evaluated at an estimated $4 million according to Boulos, the lot could provide some 38 spacious overnight rooms for women in a year.
“The location is ideal, it’s only a few blocks away from our current location,” Boulos said.
“It also would be perfect as a community space for women who are isolated, who could come for social recreational activities. Space in the city is lacking.”
“We’re worried because this area, it is under a lot of real estate pressure,” Heritage Montreal spokesperson Taika Baillargeron said.
Baillargeron wants to see the structure preserved and its mission kept alive by designating it an official Montreal heritage building.
Heritage Montreal has thrown its support behind Chez Doris.
“It’s really the kind of organization that we wish to see there because it really follows the steps and the vision that first was there,” Baillargeron said.
The building, however, is prime real estate with many potential buyers, including possibly Concordia University, which owns much of the surrounding property for a future project.
Concordia University would not comment.
“We do not discuss our interest or non-interest in any real estate,” Concordia spokesperson Vannina Maestracci said.
The residence is not officially on the market yet, according to Chez Doris, but Boulos worries with the hot market the women’s shelter will be outbid in the selection process.
“This is our cry for help,” Boulos said.
Chez Doris says it is working closely with the City of Montreal and the Fulford Residence to help acquire the building in an effort to improve social housing in the city.