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Questions on sale still surround Negro Community Centre – Montreal

MONTREAL — For the past two weeks, word has swirled around the Negro Community Centre that the iconic building has been sold to condo developers. But so far efforts to learn the exact contours of a sale agreement involving the crumbling structure on 2035 Coursol Street have generated little more than speculation.

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An agreement in principle appears to be in place between the bankruptcy trustee, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and an unknown buyer for around $300,000, according to Thierry Larrivee, a spokesperson for the Sud-Ouest borough where the NCC is located. But Global News was unable to confirm the transfer of the property  through the municipal tax assessor’s office, and city spokesperson Patricia Lowe confirmed Tuesday that any sale has not been finalized.

Other documents that have come to light do little to clear up a situation that has morphed into an ongoing saga in recent weeks. Accounting by PWC indicates that the NCC owed $166,037.58 at the time it went into bankruptcy protection earlier this year, with the city of Montreal being the largest unsecured creditor with a total debt of more than $130,000. The accounting office of Steven T. Tabac is listed as being owed almost $25,000, but no one there had heard any news of a sale.

PWC has said it does not comment on the deals it brokers.

Watch: NCC closure debate

If the building is in fact bought by a developer, a real estate group would face a number of legal hurdles before turning it into condos or any housing for that matter. First off, as recently as June 11, city officials wrote a concerned citizen to confirm that the building has a historical designation  (“immeuble d’interet patrimonial”) under the borough’s by-laws.

According to city councillor Craig Sauve, the zoning of the building would also have to be changed if the property were to be developed. Currently it is zoned as “educational-constitutional” by the city of Montreal.

The board of directors of the Negro Community Centre is also reluctant to talk to the media. Global News has confirmed that around the time it went into bankruptcy, the amount of cash-on-hand the organization claimed — more than $235,000 — well exceeded its liabilities. And although concerned citizens have been holding ad hoc meetings in the basement of the Universal Negro Improvement Association with an eye toward saving the historic building, the six board members of the NCC have not attended them. Attempts by Global News to contact the board have also been unsuccessful.

Watch: NCC on verge of bankruptcy

The organization was founded in Little Burgundy within the former home of the Union United Church in 1927. It became a hub for black cultural life during most of the 20th Century; it housed dance classes, piano lessons and athletic events in addition to being an informal meeting place for field trips and other community events.

The NCC fell on hard times sometime in the mid-1990s, and the building was abandoned in the midst of gentrification and massive demographic change in the neighbourhood. Former members of the NCC’s board say overhead costs in recent years topped $30,000 a month.

“Time is of the matter, so we have to really work rationally and see what can be done within a reasonable amount of time,” Michael Farkas recently told Global News, a concerned citizen who used to be on the board of the NCC.

Another meeting is set for the UNIA Thursday night. Community leaders believe that by meeting and sharing information about the NCC they may be able to save the building for future generations.

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