Lachance Immobilier and the Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ have invested $55 million to convert a former 10-storey office building into a 142-unit, upscale residential rental property on Montreal’s Nuns’ Island.
Built in 1992, Le 16 Place du commerce (16 PdC) once housed the Yellow Pages as a major tenant but had been vacant for years. It is steps away from the new Nuns’ Island REM light rail station and near the Champlain Bridge.
The first section of the REM, which includes the Nuns’ Island station, is set to open this year and will provide direct access to downtown and the South Shore.
“We knew that we had a TOD (transit-oriented development) nearby,” said Michel Gauthier, vice-president, construction at Lachance Immobilier.
“The opportunity to build residential near the REM gives us an advantage on rentals. Having the REM gives value to the project right away.”
Market studies showed converting the building from office to residential was feasible, he said.
Few office-to-apartment conversions in Montreal
Gauthier is aware of only a few examples of office buildings converted into residential developments in Montreal. He cited the conversion of 1155 Sherbrooke St. W. in downtown Montreal into the Sofitel Hotel, “but it’s not the same code as apartment buildings.”
The building’s transformation was achieved in only eight months, as opposed to the at least two years it would have taken to obtain permits and build a new building from scratch, he said.
Converting the building also cost nearly 20 per cent less than building new.
“It was very complicated to do it, but we took on the challenge.”
To provide fresh air in bedrooms and living rooms, as required by the building code, the developer incorporated loggia balconies inside the units.
The building’s original curtain wall was not to current energy efficiency standards, the mechanical systems had to be changed and heat exchangers were installed in all units.
However, ‘because it was commercial, the standards were a lot better than residential, with a lot of electrical power and power generators.”
Lachance's Cite de l'Ile on Nuns' Island
16 PdC is the first project in Lachance’s proposed Cite de l’Ile project on the northern side of the island, which is part of the Verdun borough of Montreal.
The multi-tower, 1,221-unit housing project is in the public consultation stage. It would include condos, a hotel, private seniors’ residence, social housing and stores, and would be built in phases over a five- to 10-year period.
The mixed-use project will require a zoning change from its current commercial zoning.
A Nuns’ Island residents’ group has questioned the project’s density and claims the city does not have the infrastructure to handle a population increase. The group also decries a lack of schools and community centres on the island.
Lachance and the Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ had acquired the 16 PdC building from Canderel in 2020.
Features of 16 PdC
The apartments feature 10-foot ceilings and include heat, electricity, cable, wireless Internet, six appliances and curtains. Optional indoor and outdoor parking is available. There is a 24-hour doorman service, fully equipped training room and an outdoor swimming pool.
Units range from 575 to 975 square feet and include studios, one-bedroom and one-bedroom with office, with seven-and-a-half-feet-high windows in some units.
Rents for a 975-square-foot apartment are listed at $2,550 to $2,750 per month with indoor or outdoor parking offered for an additional $250 or $150 per month.
There is also 6,000 square feet commercial space on the ground floor and 10,000 square feet in the basement, with much of the space rented to physicians, Gauthier said.
Although the building meets several LEED criteria it is not LEED certified “because we didn’t have time.”
About Lachance and Fonds FTQ
Founded in 2005 by Claude Lachance, Lachance Immobilier has developed several residential projects on Nuns’ Island.
The company also created the first housing project in Montreal's Griffintown neighbourhood in the early 2000s, a six-phase, 1,000-unit condominium complex.
The Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ, the real estate arm of the FTQ trade union, backs mixed-use, residential, office, commercial, institutional and industrial projects of all sizes across Quebec.
As of June 30, 2022, the Fonds immobilier had 47 projects worth $4.9 billion in development or construction, 65 portfolio properties under management and 1.8 million square feet of land for development.