CBC/Radio-Canada downsizing and developing in Montreal

CBC/Radio-Canada is downsizing by moving out of its 40-year-old office tower in the eastern fringe of downtown Montreal and into a new smaller headquarters next door.
The French division of CBC says its 24-storey Maison de Radio-Canada is too large and needs many costly renovations, so it plans to sell the building and become the tenant of a new headquarters that will be constructed on its site, much of which is now comprised of parking lots.
Hubert Lacroix, president of CBC/Radio-Canada, said in a statement it’s not the public broadcaster’s role to invest in real estate. The broadcaster wants to make better use of its spaces across the country and to avoid the risks involved in real estate management.
In June, CBC/Radio-Canada issued a request for proposal (RFP) for the design of a new Maison de Radio-Canada. Three groups of companies that pre-qualified in 2012 – Consortium Média Cité(headed by Busac Inc.), Partenaires du développement de la Maison (headed by Broccolini) and SNC-Lavalin/Prével – have until March 2014 to answer.

CBC/Radio-Canada building at 1400 René-Lévesque Boulevard East in Montreal
At end of RFP process
CBC/Radio-Canada will sell its land and buildings to the group selected at the end of the RFP process, becoming a tenant in the new facilities under a long-term lease. The project will be completed without the need for government or taxpayer funding.
As covered in the RFP, the site development will include residential units, social and affordable housing, commercial space, office buildings and green spaces. The existing tower, completed in 1973, will remain and continue to display the corporation’s logo. However, its future vocation is unknown.
In an allusion to the construction industry scandal that has enveloped Quebec, the RFP also contains a requirement that the chosen consortium must have a code of ethics that it will respect at all times.
CBC/Radio-Canada says the project will allow it to build a new headquarters that will meet current and future needs, while ensuring protection of programming budgets.
According to Louis Lalande, executive vice-president, French services at CBC/Radio-Canada, the current facilities no longer meet the public broadcaster’s needs and require investments the corporation cannot afford.
The amount it would cost to renovate the existing facility is confidential.
“We believe we can assert our leadership in this context and meet our needs with the equivalent of 50 per cent of the floorspace we currently occupy,” Lalande says.
About 3,800 employees
About 3,800 employees now work in the building which occupies about 1.3 million square feet.
CBC/Radio-Canada estimates its occupancy of radio studios is only at half of capacity and that it can eliminate current under-used workspaces. As well, space given over to archiving can be reduced because of the shift to digital archiving.
The new building will have an open-plan workspace, now standard in many similar creative-sector corporations such as the BBC. Pilot projects will be conducted to test the new workspace concept.
Work on the new CBC/Radio-Canada heaquarters could begin in early 2015 and be completed by 2017. Any project selected must be approved by both CBC/Radio-Canada’s board of directors and the federal Treasury Board.
The process has been mapped out in consultation with representatives from stakeholders such as the City of Montreal and community groups in the Centre-Sud district, where the Maison de Radio-Canada is located.
According to a development agreement reached with Montreal in 2009, 20 per cent of residential units built on the site must be social housing and 10 per cent of residential units must be affordable. Part of the social and affordable housing will be reserved for the elderly and for families.
Ironically, the original creation of the Maison de Radio-Canada led to the expropriation and demolition of about 1,200 housing units and the displacement of about 5,000 residents in the late 1960s. The area was known as Faubourg à m’lasse.

Google map showing location (A) of the CBC/Radio-Canada property
Times have changed
In a sign that times have changed, CBC/Radio-Canada now says it is difficult to imagine indefinitely maintaining huge outdoor parking lots in the eastern limits of downtown Montreal. (The Maison de Radio-Canada is located near the Molson Brewery and just west of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge.)
CBC/Radio-Canada says new residential spaces at the site could also meet the housing demand created by the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM), new University of Montreal “super hospital”.
The new Maison de Radio-Canada will have LEED-silver certification and the overall site will have LEED-ND certification. Sustainable features of the development will include green spaces, design considerations to reduction of heat island effect, water and energy use management, free bike stations and a ride sharing program.



Danny is a multiple award-winning journalist based in Montreal, who has written for about 75 magazines and newspapers in Canada and the U.S. His credits include The Globe and Mail,…

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Danny is a multiple award-winning journalist based in Montreal, who has written for about 75 magazines and newspapers in Canada and the U.S. His credits include The Globe and Mail,…

Read more




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