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Not-for-profit groups face homelessness

NDG - Almost a dozen community organizations are just months away from losing their home at the Rosedale Queen-Mary Church on Terrebonne St.

The problem is that their lease is expiring in June, and the church is for sale.

The Space Coalition represents about 20 community groups who are looking for affordable rental space to be able to continue providing their self-financing services to the community.

They want to be able to maintain the services offered at the current location by groups like Hippy Quebec (services for low-income families) and the Young Parents Program (Head and Hands).

“The church wants to sell this building to the highest bidder and reinvest the money in other churches, so we’re speeding up the process because we want the groups to stay where they are,” says Hans Heisinger, who heads the NDG Carrefour Jeunesse-Emploi.

The annex of the church formerly used by the congregation also needs renovations and transformations. The Space Coalition plans to turn it into a multigenerational, multifunctional community centre that would even offer workspace

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“That would really provide the stability they need, because for non-profit organizations, prices are going up too,” said Heisinger.

They already made a $1.1 million conditional offer to purchase the building, but it was not even considered by the trustees, said Heisinger.

So they are in the process of setting up the Coopérative de Solidarité NDG, a coop that already has the endorsement of important financial backers, such as the CDN-NDG CDEC and a major local financial institution. According to a preliminary estimate done as part of their feasibility study, the project requires an investment of at least $3.5 million.

“Rental space in commercial buildings is extremely expensive in some areas of NDG, so I think that organizations that don’t have recurrent and constant financing can’t afford it,” said Heisinger.

The problem is not unique to the borough. The church is temporarily renting space to religious groups not based in NDG that couldn’t find space elsewhere.

“There is clearly some interest from private developers, but this would require a zoning change if they want a residential development. Right now, the zoning is designated for religious and socio-community activities,” said Heisinger.

In spite of the existence of other potential buyers, there is still hope, he says. “Our members as well as members of the congregation want the church heritage to remain intact and that it be used for social implications in continuity with the current use of the space,” he said.

The project also involves a daycare centre (Centre de la petite enfance), and the Coalition is expecting the government’s approval for the CPE at the beginning of March, any day now. The presence of a CPE would significantly increase their chances of securing the additional financing they need.

They have signified their interest to the

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trustees and plan to make their final offer by the end of March.

“The Queen Mary Community Centre will meet an important need in the NDG community by providing affordable and long-term space to local community organizations when it’s getting tougher and tougher to find affordable space to house their essential services,” states their presentation to the trustees dated Aug. 15 last year.

“There are other churches in NDG. If this project doesn’t work out, we will be ready next time,” concluded Heisinger.

Marie Cicchini |

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