An old Montreal landmark in the city’s Southwest borough may soon find new life.
The city council voted at its last meeting to purchase the land that was once occupied by the Negro Community Center (NCC) on Coursol Street in Little Burgundy, in the city’s Southwest borough.
Andrea Este, vice-president of the Center for Canadians of African Descent (CCAD), formerly the CCN, said she was stunned.
“Because it’s something that we think would take another 10 years,” she told PKBNEWS, standing next to the property. “We are still a bit in shock. We always try to process everything.
Citizens’ group presents plan to revive Montreal’s historic Black Community Center
In 2014, the city had put a right of first refusal on the property when it was sold to a private developer
“That means if it ever comes up for sale, we can step in and buy at the bid price,” said Southwest Councilman Craig Sauvé.
This opportunity recently presented itself and the city purchased the land for just over $2 million.
Founded in the mid-1920s by Reverend Charles Este, Andrea’s uncle, it served as a community and educational center where jazz legends such as Oscar Peterson honed their skills.
The founder’s niece pointed out that the place was a focal point for the black community facing discrimination in the city.
“It provided them with support, provided them with guidance, provided them with opportunities,” she said, “especially for newly arrived black people from the Caribbean, etc.
Facing financial difficulties, 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 the demolition as best we could and were overturned by the Superior Court and then the Court of Appeal.
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Since the fall of the building, community groups, including the CCAD, have been trying to recover the property.
Now they and other groups advocating for black communities hope the new facility will be similar to the NCC’s and include spaces like a repository of black historical artifacts and areas to celebrate and recognize black contributions to the city. .
They also want it to serve other communities.
“We can rebuild a community center and probably public housing as well as part of the deal,” said Michael P Farkas, chair of the Black History Month Roundtable.
The city plans to work with various community organizations to decide on the future of the site.
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