Ivanhoé Cambridge spending $20 million for apartment complex facelift

Ivanhoé Cambridge is spending more than $20 million to renovate Rockhill Apartments, one of three major apartment complexes in Montreal.
The real estate arm of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec pension fund aims to bring the 1,004-unit complex – comprised of two 20-storey and four 15-storey buildings completed in 1968 – up to today’s standards and tastes, says Martine Philibert, vice-president, asset management, residential and hotel at Ivanhoé Cambridge.
“That’s our mission at Ivanhoe Cambridge. It’s the business plan we’ve followed for several years for our multi-residential portfolio, whether it’s in New York, California or, most recently, London,” Philibert says.
“We’re in the habit of buying buildings that we see have the potential to be upgraded and Rockhill is one of them.”
The company’s goal is to make long-term investments in which it not only maintains its buildings but increases their values, she adds.
The Rockhill residential complex is situated on Côte des Neiges Road on the northwestern slope of Mount Royal.
Philibert says the complex was well-maintained when Ivanhoé Cambridge obtained it in 2011, but had maintained the same style as when it was built. The company bought Rockhill from Canadian National’s pension fund for an estimated $160 million.

Rockhill Apartments is a 1,004-unit complex with two 20-storey and four 15-storey buildings completed in 1968
96 per cent occupancy rate
Rockhill currently has a 96 per cent occupancy rate and an average monthly rental price of $1,140 for its bachelor, one- and two-bedroom and penthouse apartments.
Only the Olympic Village and La Cité (owned by Oxford Properties) can compete with the Rockhill in terms of size, Philibert notes. “It’s a village in a city.”
Work at the Rockhill will focus on modernizing the buildings and common areas and creating a leisure- and community-oriented lifestyle.
Upgrades will include eight fully renovated penthouses, new lobbies, Wi-Fi zones and a shopping area.
A range of à la carte services for residents will also be introduced and could include everything from catering, package pickup and delivery and printing services to such concierge services as car washing, dog walking and ticket reservations.
An à la carte fitness facility will also be added to such current services as a large indoor pool, inner courtyard, indoor parking and 24-hour security.
“This building really has the potential to distinguish itself from other multi-residentials,” says Philibert. “We were inspired by what we’ve done in our other multi-residential buildings and what we’re doing in hotels and even shopping centres elsewhere.”

Rockhill Apartments is a 1,004-unit complex with two 20-storey and four 15-storey buildings completed in 1968
Greater sense of community
The aim is to offer residents a greater sense of community, Philibert says.
“There are lots of little things we’re looking at to improve tenants’ quality of life.”
Underused areas of lobbies that currently house lockers will also be transformed into work and study rooms and livelier multi-purpose spaces with improved lighting and accessibility.
In its current state, the complex was unable to attract additional retail tenants for the commercial area, which currently houses only longtime tenants consisting of a dépanneur (corner grocer), cleaner and hairdresser.
“We think that once the area has been redone, it will be much easier for us to attract tenants that can offer services to tenants,” she says. “We’re taking a reverse 'if you build it they will come’ approach with improved lighting and access.”
The company has hired Sid Lee Architecture to revitalize Rockhill by making better use of the space to strengthen the ties between the buildings and residents.
To date, $5 million has been spent on repairs to the exteriors of the buildings and parking garage. The company will also be repairing the apartment balconies to bring them up to current standards.
Apartments will be renovated when there is turnover. Existing tenants can also request renovations but these can only be carried out if there’s a return on investment and rent increases are agreed upon.
To better integrate the complex into the mountain, the large inner courtyard will be redone and the exterior’s proportion of concrete to green spaces, currently at 60-40, will be reversed to 40-60.
The complex is located in the Mount Royal heritage zone and the changes announced by Ivanhoé Cambridge have received approval from the preservation groups Heritage Montreal and Les amis de la montagne (friends of the mountain).
Ivanhoé Cambridge has made it a goal to hold up to 10 per cent of its assets in residential towers. As of the end of 2012, the company had a real estate portfolio worth $35 billion in 20 countries.

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