Verdun Legion Moving: Verdun Islamic Centre Sharing Space until December

November 7th, 2012

Last Sunday, Nov. 4 was an emotional day for members of The Royal Canadian Legion's Branch 4 in Verdun. It was the last time that participants in the annual Verdun Remembrance Day parade could walk from the Cenotaph directly into the Great War Memorial Hall, the building they built in 1929. 
“The building is too big for us,” said Ross Neil, first vice president of Branch 4 and the chairperson of the committee in charge of the building sale. “We're now around 200 members. The upkeep is a little too much. We thought about getting someone else in there, but that would have required lots of renovating so the ultimate decision was to sell it and find somewhere else to stay. We started last summer sometime. We finally had an acceptable offer in February.”
The Muslim Association of Canada bought the 10,000 square foot building at 4538 rue Verdun last March to turn it into the Verdun Islamic Community Centre. The value of the building and the lot on which it sits is $669,000 according to the tax rolls.
This will be the fourth move in the history of the branch, which began as the Great War Veteran's Association in 1919. They originally met at the old Verdun City Hall, then a rented hall on Wellington Street before building the Great War Memorial Hall. Several financial hurdles were successfully overcome in the years since then, including the Quebec Government's decision to require the group to pay taxes on their building in 1995. A diminishing membership in recent years led the group to seek out rented space again.
They found it at 5969 Verdun Avenue. The former pharmacy has 3,000 square feet on the main floor and another 3,000 on the top floor. It is owned by 4370732 Canada Inc., which is run by Guy Barré, out of Pointe Claire.
The Great Memorial Hall had to be rezoned as a religious space for the Muslim group and the former pharmacy had to be rezoned as a social club. Three Borough Council Meetings and a waiting period to see if Verdun residents would oppose the motions meant that the Legion couldn't get into their new space by Nov. 1 as they planned. 
They asked the new owners if they could share the space for a month, and the new owners agreed. “In the past few months, we've allowed them to use the hall with no charge so they're doing the same thing for us,” said Neil. 
For the next couple of weeks, Monday crib nights and Wednesday darts will take place in the basement while the new owners hold prayer meetings and other activities in the hall upstairs. 
“We're planning to move into the new building in the beginning of December, says Neil. “It may not be 100 percent complete but we'll be able to operate.”n

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