The developer of a $40-million condominium complex in Montreal’s Gay Village has established a non-profit organization as a way to affordably house offices for community groups in part of the nine-storey building.
As part of a zoning change which cleared the way for construction of the 100-unit Le Bourbon condo development, the City of Montreal required that space in the building be provided to the groups, most of which are affiliated with the LGBTQ community.
The city’s public consultation office recommended a development that would contribute to the Village’s distinctive identity and help fulfill community groups’ need for spaces. However, some of those groups groups balked at paying market rent for office space, which in downtown Montreal ranges from $24 to $34 per square foot.
Maison Bourbon non-profit
The solution, says developer Labid Aljundi, president of Investissements MSC Canada, was to create Maison Bourbon. The non-profit organization will be able to provide community groups with well-below-market rents of $10 to $17 per square foot on the second floor.
“I love the Village,” says Aljundi. However, he says it was a challenge to find ways to house community groups who don’t have the financial resources to pay current rates. “We had to roll up our sleeves and try to solve it.”
After discussions with the community groups, the non-profit organization idea was born. Maison Bourbon will have its own management and will operate under a work-space sharing arrangement. “Some of the groups need spaces, but they don’t need it all day long or all week long,” he notes.
Among the facilities available to community groups will be four good-sized meeting rooms, an activity hall of about 3,000 square feet and shared administrative services.
Aljundi says community groups have received news of the non-profit space positively.
Once vibrant, block was abandoned
Le Bourbon at 1550 Ste. Catherine Street East is located on a block that years ago contained a popular restaurant (Le Club Sandwich) nightclub, hotel and other retailers. However, most of the property on the block between de Champlain and Alexandre-DeSève Streets had eventually been abandoned.
Aljundi acquired the property in 2014, the same year he founded Investissements MSC Canada in partnership with his brother. The company also owns the eight-storey Fides medical office building at 235 René-Lévesque Blvd. East which was built in 1964 and renovated in 2014.
“I feel a belonging to Montreal and I was looking for opportunity,” says Aljundi, who moved from his native Syria to Canada in 2003. “This was one of my development dream projects.”
He admits “it was not an easy project I picked.” But, the end result will be a building “well-anchored and well-positioned in the Village.”
More than 20 per cent of the condos have been sold, mostly to locals. Construction work has begun, Aljundi notes, with his company self-financing the project.
The complex has not reached the sales threshold investors normally required for construction to begin but “we believe in this project. We didn’t wait.” Construction should be completed in spring 2020.
He expects sales to pick up in the spring. “We are very much comfortable with the sales rate and we think that we will have it sold soon.”
Condo units larger than most in Montreal
Prices for a one-bedroom start at under $245,000 and rise to about $700,000 for a penthouse.
Condo units will be larger than many others in the downtown area. Aljundi says a one-bedroom will be similar in size to a two-bedroom elsewhere. The smallest unit is about 550 square feet compared with 400 square feet.
Amenities include a rooftop swimming pool and deck, a gym that faces a park across the street, two levels of indoor parking, bicycle rentals, parking spaces for Car2Go shared cars and electric car charging stations.
The ground floor will house retail establishments, the second floor will house Maison Bourbon and condos will be on the third to ninth floors.
Condo regulations will forbid owners from renting units on Airbnb or similar services.
Aljundi is also confident investors will be dissuaded from buying because units are larger than normal. “Investors’ strategy is to go for small units and quantity. But, our units are large and this is a natural filter for investors.”
Le Bourbon’s marketing, he says, is geared toward people who want to live in the building.