Groupe Quint has purchased the iconic former Holt Renfrew building at 1300 Sherbrooke St. W. in downtown Montreal and plans to invest about $20 million to transform the vacant site into a mixed-use retail and office development.
Terms for the off-market deal, which was concluded in late June, were not disclosed but Groupe Quint president and founder Ian Quint told RENX the company gave Holt Renfrew owner George Weston Ltd. its asking price for the building.
The transaction, in the works for about half a year, was not affected by the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
Plans call for the ground floor and basement of the prime location at Sherbrooke and de la Montagne Street to be maintained as retail spaces and upper floors to be converted into offices.
When renovations are completed, the building will have about 35,000 square feet of retail space and up to 85,000 square feet of office space.
“We’re very happy to have acquired it,” Quint says. “We think that we’re going to have a fantastic and successful project.”
The building became available when Holt Renfrew recently moved into the Ogilvy department store at 1307 Ste. Catherine St. W. in downtown Montreal.
Now known as Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, the 250,000-square-foot store is one of the largest multi-brand luxury stores in North America.
The former Holt Renfrew building
Built in phases in the 1930s, the former Holt Renfrew building consists of sections of four and seven storeys.
The art-deco section of the Holt Renfrew building, completed in 1937, was designed by the architectural firm Ross and Macdonald, which also designed a number of Canada’s château-style hotels, including the Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa.
The exterior of the building will be preserved, with only the windows replaced. “It’s not a historical building but it does have a landmark history to it,” Quint noted.
Most of the interior will be demolished. Demolition will start in August and last for a few months.
Construction will start in earnest in December and last for three or four months.
For the office space, the goal is to have one to three large tenants who will be able to have their own elevators, private lobbies and their own branding on the building.
“We’re doubly happy with the acquisition given what’s happening with the pandemic,” Quint said. “We really think it’s a great product for the new world that we’re living in.”
Quint said interest from potential office tenants, many of whom rent 50,000 square feet in 50-storey office buildings, has been “overwhelming.”
Given the size of the building, tenants will be able to take the stairs if they don’t want to use an elevator, he noted.
The company has been getting calls from a large variety of users for the retail space, but Quint is most interested in leasing it to cafes, restaurants, high-end grocery stores or ready-to-eat users.
About Quint and Groupe Quint
Quint, a native Montrealer and graduate of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 2005, began working in real estate after being called to the New York State Bar.
He formed Westmount, Que.-based Groupe Quint in 2014 and it now has a portfolio of more than eight million square feet of primarily industrial, commercial and retail real estate in Canada and the U.S.
Its acquisition strategy consists in large part in buying vacant buildings, redeveloping them, leasing them and creating value, he explained: “A key to our success is being able to make decisions quickly and buy product that is either majority vacant or fully vacant where there’s no cash flow, which most other investors can’t purchase.”
The company also specializes in buying “dead” enclosed malls, which “aren’t the flavour of the month,” and breathing new life into them. “It’s all about buying-in for the right price, and then reimagining them,” he said.
The strategy is often to “demall” the sites by removing the common areas and converting them into leasable spaces such as storage operations.
Other recent acquisitions
Last year, Quint bought the 18-building Carrefour Champêtre shopping outlet in Bromont in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. It is now being converted into a service-oriented centre with offices, and some of the buildings are being sold to owner-occupants.
In Ontario, Quint owns the 350,000-square-foot Cornwall Square enclosed mall in Cornwall and 13 stand-alone buildings in 13 cities across the province in which the anchor tenant is retailer Giant Tiger.
Earlier this year, Quint acquired from Investors Group the 180,000-square-foot Complexe Daniel-Johnson close to the Carrefour Laval shopping mall in Laval. The site includes the 2550 Daniel-Johnson office building and the mixed-use 2560 Daniel-Johnson office/retail property.
The Complexe was about 20 per cent vacant upon acquisition but is close to 100 per cent occupied after the formerly vacant spaces were renovated.
During the height of the pandemic, Quint bought 675,000 square feet of industrial properties in Montreal’s East End and in Ste. Hyacinthe, near the city.
In the U.S., Quint owns 1.5 million square feet of industrial space in cities including Tampa Bay and Memphis.
“Our philosophy is if there’s a thousand good deals to do in a year, we’ll do a thousand deals; if there’s zero good deals to do in the next 10 years, we won’t do a single deal,” Quint said.
“As long as we’re finding the product that we’re comfortable with and can create value, we’ll do as many deals as possible.”