One of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Canada will be home to a brand new master-planned community, which will include much-needed purpose-built rental apartments.
Jesta Group is developing Place Gare Viger in Old Montreal, an expansive development that will feature a Hyatt Centric hotel, an array of retail, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada’s new office, and 321 residential rental units across over 1 million sq ft. Additionally, Lightspeed, the cloud solutions firm, is doubling its office space at the Gare Viger Château, making it the official anchor tenant.
Place Gare Viger was years in the making, says Jesta Group’s Anthony O’Brien, because of the city’s naturally fastidious requirement that nearby heritage buildings be preserved, if not their facades maintained. And if there’s one thing Old Montreal has in spades, it’s heritage.
“We’ve been working on this for almost a decade because the City of Montreal’s minister of culture has a strong say over anything we do in the old city,” said O’Brien, Jesta Group’s senior managing director. “We started the project by renovating the château and then focusing on the master plan. We always have a vision of creating a community onto itself and the concept behind the urban campus is having near 24/365 usage. We accomplish this with the hotel that has a destination restaurant, which is done by the Burgundy Lion Group, meeting rooms and other amenities, and then the apartment buildings containing 321 units. Then we have the office tower, which will be built around the château. There’s a central courtyard that’s huge and that will bring a lot of pedestrian traffic; it will be landscaped so that people can work and relax outdoors. There will even be outdoor gym activity.”
Jesta Group anticipates robust demand for the rental units, especially because Old Montreal has a dearth of purpose-built rental units. Typically, the only residences for rent in the area are investor-owned condos or expansive, and therefore expensive, lofts.
Patrice Groleau, owner of McGill Real Estate, concurs that the units will be scooped up quickly.
“It’s going to be really good because the problem for rentals in Old Montreal is there are a lot of historic buildings, and most of them don’t have elevators,” said Groleau. “There are some new projects but they’re condo projects and not rental-oriented. A lot of the rental units in Old Montreal are lofts, but you usually live in a loft once, not twice.”
Place Gare Viger, in many ways, is the final piece of the Montreal waterfront’s revitalization. Le Solano by St-Luc Habitation on Rue de la Commune E. is a lynchpin project in the area, and the site of the iconic Molson Brewery by the Jacques Cartier bridge is also being redeveloped into a mixed-use community, as is the nearby Radio Canada campus, which recruited reputed developer Broccolini to create a media and digital production hub by the St. Lawrence River.
“The demand is going to be significant,” said O’Brien. “We’re only going to start the leasing process in September but the reality is we’re one block from the St. Lawrence River and right by Place Jacques-Cartier, the second busiest tourist spot in all of Canada. Most buildings in Old Montreal are three to five storeys high, but from the fifth floor up there will be tremendous views in all directions. There isn’t a lot of potential for development in the old city because of heritage considerations, so when we talk about demand, there will be no other sites for people to choose from.”