Phi Contemporain, a new digital art center of more than 80 million in Old Montreal

A new large Phi Foundation for Contemporary Art cultural space is being developed in Old Montreal. Financial support for the project provided by Quebec and Ottawa, which exceeds $26.6 million on an estimated construction budget of more than $47 million, will be announced Friday in Montreal. The entire complex focused on digital and immersive is budgeted at more than 80 million.

An international architecture competition that is already well underway will determine the winning firm in mid-July. The new place of creation and dissemination, called Phi Contemporain, will join the Phi Center that has existed in the historic district for a decade.

Duty He also learned that it was at the moment the only cultural real estate project in Montreal financed by the Assistance Program for the Development of Cultural Infrastructures (PADIC). The tenders were launched in September 2020. The Quebec component has an envelope of 100 million paid equally by Quebec and Ottawa.

The other seven projects selected so far under this bilateral framework are all in the regions and all in the CWC constituencies, five of which are represented by ministers. Trois-Rivières, the first city supported, will receive $20 million to modernize Salle J.-Antonio-Thompson, under a $36 million plan. Beloeil will get 10.9 million for its Aurèle-Dubois cultural space. The other five supported cultural infrastructures are libraries to be built or renovated in Prévost, Mont-Laurier, L’Ancienne-Lorette, Saint-André-Avellin and Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges.

The Ministry of Culture and Communications (MCC) assures that the appearances of favor given to the cities of the constituencies of the CAQ turn out to be “the fruit of chance”. Étienne Lévesque, head of infrastructure for the MCC office, asks the observers to be patient and wait for the end of the PADIC before concluding. He adds that the Phi Contemporain project is one of Minister Nathalie Roy’s favorites.

About a third of the $100 million remains to be distributed. The projects are being analyzed at the MCC, which remains “responsible for the implementation” of the program.

“Yes, indeed, some might draw these conclusions [d’apparence de favoritisme], but when I see all the applications submitted and the list of projects selected, under analysis or rejected, I see all the scenarios, says Mr. Lévesque. In other words, the rejected projects were in the CAQ counties, the projects under analysis are in the CAQ counties and others have been recommended. At first glance, there has been no planning to recommend projects in a CAQ county. It may seem naive, but in reality it is the result of chance and the result of the applications submitted. »

The department’s communications director, Maxime Roy, goes further by citing the program’s selection criteria related to relevance (cultural benefits, sustainable development, etc.) and feasibility.

exception case

Infrastructure Canada, which launched PADIC, never increases subsidies, even during subsequent shortfalls. Therefore, the ministry made the decision when the program was launched to only subsidize projects supported by municipalities or First Nations or Inuit governments that have sufficient resources to absorb any cost overruns.

“The minister was asked for raises before and during the pandemic,” Lévesque said. Needless to say, there has also been a disproportionate cost inflation that surprises everyone. Hit hard. »

Normally, in Quebec, the PADIC excludes proposals made by a non-profit organization (NPO), while British Columbia accepts them. An exception was granted to the Phi project because the NPO in question is supported by sponsor Phoebe Greenberg, a wealthy businesswoman who launched DHC/ART in 2007 and has supported this contemporary art foundation since .

The Phi pole was created in 2012 and already occupies two distribution spaces in Old Montreal. Furthermore, Phi Contemporain will not apply for operating aid and will finance its future activities on its own.

In contrast, the desire to move the École supérieure de ballet du Québec to the Saint-Denis church, in the Plateau-Mont-Royal district, could not qualify for the PADIC precisely because it was from an NPO. In addition, the requalification of monumental religious heritage costs a fortune, and inevitably brings with it surprises that lead to cost overruns.

“I find it insulting that the minister excludes NPOs from the program, such as the ballet school, because they don’t have money,” said Quebec solidarity deputy Ruba Ghazal, who represents Mercier in the National Assembly, the district where this educational institution is located. and the church. They are located. “This program should not work like a bank, but at the service of culture. »

The member also decides on the current favor for projects in the CAQ zone. “If the École Supérieure de Ballet was not in a united county, but persimmon, would you have made an exception? QuestionsI Ghazal. The minister must have criteria for promoting our culture rather than electoral objectives. »

The ballet school bears the name “du Québec”, but does not have a status equivalent to the theater and music conservatories. Therefore, it is not directly dependent on the MCC, even if it is subsidized for certain activities.

final stretch

Phi Contemporain’s Old Montreal site will be reconfigured after an international architecture competition is already underway and is due to end this summer. The broadcast media center will occupy a new space of almost 7,000 square meters that includes four historic buildings and vacant land. The lot to be transformed is located at the intersection of rue Bonsecours and rue Saint-Paul Est.

The competition is reaching its final stage. The committee received 65 applications from 14 countries in autumn 2021. Of the eleven selected by the jury of artists, architects and university professors, five firms from London, Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin (associated with another from Montreal) and Brussels approved the second stage, which ended two weeks ago.

Two candidates will advance to the penultimate stage. The winner will be announced on July 15.

The Phi Foundation declined to grant us an interview for the writing of this article, preferring to reserve its statements for Friday’s press conference with the governments.

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