Watch above: Montreal’s black community is meeting on Thursday night in Little Burgundy to discuss the future of the Negro Community Centre. Billy Shields reports.
MONTREAL — A clutch of concerned citizens met in a basement in Little Burgundy to discuss the future of the historic but ill-fated Negro Community Centre.
“Time is of the matter, so we have to really work rationally and see what can be done within a reasonable amount of time,” said Michael Farkas, a concerned citizen who used to be on the board of the NCC.
Word spread last week that after almost 90 years of existence, the NCC headquarters had been sold for $300,000 to condo developers. But information has been slow in coming, and community members are frustrated by a lack of transparency in the building’s future.
“How is it that this building could be sold for $300,000 when the land alone is worth more than that?” one person asked aloud.
From its office in Toronto, Price Waterhouse Coopers, the trustee of the bankruptcy, wouldn’t confirm any sale or discuss any terms. The board of the NCC also has been elusive – none of the board members were in attendance at the meeting more than an hour into it.
Many in attendance were looking ahead with the idea that the sale has already gone through.
“What’s the process? What are we going to do next?” asked Keeton Clarke, who organized the basement meeting. “What’s going to happen to the cultural legacy of this community? And of course the black community of Montreal?”
The meeting seemed to raise more questions than answers. Keeton distributed public documents that outlined some of the organization’s accounting when it went into bankruptcy protection in May.
When a swearer of oaths stamped the document in July, it listed debts totalling more than $166,000, but cash-on-hand of almost $240,000. It was a fact that appeared to buttress a claim made by some in Little Burgundy that the organization applied for bankruptcy protection before exhausting all its options.
If a sale has gone through, if a company did want to develop the area as condominiums, it would have to go through a rezoning hearing. It is both zoned educational-constitutional and holds a historic designation.
So far the NCC site has not appeared on the city’s records as being sold.
The NCC was established in 1927 and became the hub of black cultural life in Montreal. Its headquarters were abandoned in the 1990s, and it fell into disrepair. The western wall of the building came down in April due to disrepair.