Developer Devimco has kicked off construction of its $700-million-plus Maestria project in downtown Montreal, which its backers say is the city’s largest mixed-use residential real estate development.
The project will consist of 57- and 61-storey towers with about 1,750 condominium and rental units and will rise in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles neighbourhood, the site of the Montreal International Jazz and Just for Laughs festivals, among others.
That’s higher than the original plans from November which called for towers of 55 and 58 storeys.
However, at the request of the city, the towers have been slimmed down in size to minimize the impact of sunlight reduction on the Quartier des Spectacles, says Normand Bélanger, president and CEO of the Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ, a major investor in Maestria.
Maestria will compete in number of storeys with Brivia Group’s proposed 61-storey Square Phillips project in downtown Montreal which Brivia calls “the tallest residential tower of Montreal.”
Fonds FTQ owns Maestria site
The Maestria project is on the site of the former Spectrum de Montréal concert venue on Ste. Catherine Street between Jeanne-Mance and De Bleury Streets.
The Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ owns the site, which sat vacant for several years, and is investing in Maestria with Fiera Real Estate and Devimco.
Initial plans called for an office tower to be developed on the site by Canderel, Bélanger said in an interview.
However, office space is gravitating more toward the west of downtown Montreal, Bélanger says.
“We found the site was less appropriate for (offices).” In addition, since office vacancy rates in the city were high until a few years ago, “we decided to migrate toward residential and made the transaction with Devimco and Fiera.”
He would not divulge the trade union’s fund equity in Maestria.
Condo sales moving well
Seventy-five per cent of the 438 condominium units in the first tower of Maestria have sold since the project was announced in November. Sales have just begun for the second tower which will have 611 condos as well as 340 rental units.
The project is scheduled for delivery by 2023.
Both towers will have rental units on the lower floors and condos on the upper floors. Prices start at $295,000 for a studio condo and units will range from 300 to 2,200 square feet.
Devimco president Serge Goulet says condo prices at Maestria are in the mid-range for downtown Montreal condo towers.
Maestria will not contain affordable housing, but Goulet says Devimco is making a “voluntary contribution” of $10 million to the City of Montreal to be used for social housing.
Amenities at Maestria include indoor and outdoor pools with spa, exercise room, virtual-golf room, children’s playroom, library, business centre and movie theatre. There will be a retail gallery of about 50,000 square feet and a small public plaza.
Maestria’s sky-high skyway
However, the highlight of Maestria will be an aerial walkway or skyway with a private lounge on the 26th and 27th floors that will connect the two buildings. It will be a first for downtown Montreal.
The aim of the skyway is to link the two towers and to provide direct views of the festival site, says Marco Fontaine, vice-president development, residential and marketing at Devimco. It also provides a signature to the development.
“We find it to be original,” he says. “It’s light; it’s fun.”
Bélanger notes the Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ has been investing in a number of Devimco projects for more than 10 years.
“The results are there. Whether, it’s Griffintown, the (former Montreal Children’s Hospital site) or MAA (condominiums), the projects are constantly coming and they are working,” he says. “We’re very satisfied to work with Devimco.”
In Montreal, Devimco has built a number of condo developments in the Griffintown area. It is now developing the Square Children’s development, comprising mainly of condos at the site of the former hospital property on the western edge of downtown Montreal.
Devimco, Fonds busy in Montreal
Devimco will also start construction this year of the MAA Condominiums & Penthouses on Peel Street in downtown Montreal.
The developer’s current or projected housing starts number 6,300 units on the island of Montreal, with an investment of $2.4 billion.
Devimco is also building the $1.5 billlion Solar Uniquartier project on the South Shore of Montreal, the largest transit-oriented development in Quebec.
Goulet says the development is selling about 50 condo units a month, compared to an average of about five units a month for condo projects on the South Shore.
Bélanger, whose Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ is currently involved in 61 real estate projects across Quebec worth $4.2 billion, sees the Montreal market “maintaining its effervescence” through 2020.
“Sales are there, rental rates are there. We don’t see any increases in interest rates in the coming months.”
Among the Fonds’ other investments in the Montreal area, are the Humaniti mixed-use project by Cogir, Groupe Montoni’s Espace Montmorency mixed-use development in Laval and Canderel’s Tour des Canadiens 1 and 2 condos.
At the moment, the Fonds is taking particular interest in industrial development and has received requests for projects across the province.
The Fonds is partnering with the Simons department store chain to build a new warehouse in the Quebec City area and is working on yet-to-be-announced industrial projects in the Montreal area, he says.