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Montreal purchases land of historic Black community centre in city’s Southwest

Click to play video: 'Montreal purchases land of historic Black community centre in city’s Southwest'
Montreal purchases land of historic Black community centre in city’s Southwest
Montreal purchases land of historic Black community centre in city’s Southwest – Dec 30, 2022

A former Montreal landmark in the city’s Southwest borough, could soon be given new life.

City council voted at its last meeting to purchase the land that was once occupied by the Negro Community Centre (NCC) on Coursol Street in Little Burgundy, in the city’s Southwest borough.

Andrea Este, vice-president Centre for Canadians of African Descent (CCAD), formerly the NCC, said she’s stunned.

“Because it’s something that we thought would take another 10 years,” she told Global News standing beside the property.  “We’re still a little bit in shock.  We’re still trying to process everything.

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Back in 2014 the city had put a right of first refusal on the property when it was sold to a private developer

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“What that means is if it ever goes up for sale we get to jump in and buy at the price that the offer was,” explained Southwest city councillor Craig Sauvé.

That opportunity recently came about and the city purchased the land for just over $2 million.

Founded in the mid 1920’s by Rev. Charles Este, Andrea’s uncle, it served as a community and education centre where jazz legends such as Oscar Peterson honed their skills.

The founder’s great-grandniece niece pointed out that the place was a focal point for the Black community facing discrimination in the city.

“It provided them support, provided them with guidance, provided them with opportunities,” she said, “especially to the newly arriving Blacks from the Caribbean and so forth.

Facing financial difficulty, the NCC building closed in 1989.

The building then fell into disrepair, the organization went bankrupt and the property was sold to a private developer who demolished it in 2014.

“[The city] decried the sale to the private developer,” Sauvé noted.  “We blocked as best we could the demolition and we got overruled in Superior Court and then the Court of Appeal.
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Since the building came down, community groups, including the CCAD, have been trying to get the property back.

Now they and other groups advocating for Black communities hope the new facility will be similar to what the NCC had, and include spaces like a repository for Black historical artifacts and areas to celebrate and recognize Black contributions to the city.

They also want it to be of service to other communities, too.

“We can build back a community centre and probably some social housing also as part of the deal,” Michael P Farkas, Round Table on Black History Month president pointed out.

The city plans to work with diverse community organizations to decide the future of the site.

Click to play video: 'Montreal’s Black community gives back to students in underprivileged neighbourhoods'
Montreal’s Black community gives back to students in underprivileged neighbourhoods

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