New luxury condos under construction on the site of the former Montreal Children’s Hospital will exceed any other high-end development built in Montreal, says the developer who acquired the property from the Quebec government.
Philip Kerub, president of High-Rise Montreal, is one of the developers of the more-than-$200-million 1111 Atwater. The 38-storey building on Atwater Avenue will contain 22 luxury condos on its eight top floors and a Chartwell retirement residence (CSH-UN-T) on the lower floors. The project is due to be completed in 2022.
Kerub says the luxury condos at 1111 Atwater have an edge in terms of location and height over other projects in Montreal and will afford 360-degree views of the city.
The Ritz Carlton condos on Sherbrooke Street and Four Seasons condos on de la Montagne Street “have done a great job of introducing luxury to Montreal, (but) we want to take it a step further and bring it to another level.”
Most major cities build high-end luxury condos at the extremity of downtown, not in the core. “We’re at the edge of Westmount and Montreal, so it’s more a residential area of a high-end neighbourhood.”
Devimco also builds at former hospital site
Kerub bought the former hospital land for an undisclosed sum from the Ministry of Health in a public offering. He then sold half of the property to developer Devimco. The site near the old Montreal Forum and Alexis Nihon Plaza became available when the hospital moved west in 2015 to the new Glen site of the McGill University Health Centre.
Devimco has partnered with the Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Fiera Capital (FSZ-T) to build two 25-storey condo towers called EstWest, two rental towers and the Peter McGill Community Centre on its portion of the land. Kerub has also restored a former nurses’ residence and will build a 20-storey tower on the site.
The EstWest condos have been fully sold and the first tower is slated for delivery next spring.
“When I saw this land for sale, I thought this would be a great opportunity in a really good location of the city that hasn’t been developed enough,” Kerub says. He sold half of the land to Devimco because “it’s a big lot to develop.”
“I could have just rolled it out ourselves in phases. It’s not nice for the neighbourhood; it’s not nice for the residents to be in construction for 10 years, especially downtown,” he says.
“What’s nice about bringing in other developers is that all six towers will come up in one shot. The object is to not be in construction any longer than we need to.”
High-Rise history in Montreal
Kerub was born in Montreal, but spent about 20 years in Geneva working in airplane sales for the Tag Aviation Group. He returned to Montreal in 2016 and formed High-Rise after the premature birth of his daughter in the city.
His daughter was “one of the smallest babies ever saved in Canada,” a micro preemie weighing less than a pound and born at 23 weeks.
Her treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Montreal Children’s – ironically the site Kerub is now developing – garnered media coverage. Happily, she’s now five years old and in “perfect shape.”
High-Rise Montreal’s first project in the city was The Rubic, a 10-storey, multi-residential building at 1115 René Levesque Blvd. E. and Amherst Street. The developer is also a builder of the VillaNova condo project in Lachine.
For the last 15 years, Kerub has also operated High-Rise Miami and has developed a number of small condo, commercial and hotel projects in Florida.
After acquiring the Montreal Children’s site, Kerub concentrated on demolition of the hospital, which he says could not be saved. “The building was a disaster” – having been poorly maintained and full of asbestos.
High-Rise, Batimo moving to site
While preparing the building for demolition, there were daily alarms with electrical fires, pipes bursting and flooding, he says. “It was ready to collapse. It wasn’t tough to demolish, let’s put it this way.”
However, the former nurses’ residence next to 1111 Atwater was restored. Kerub spent more than $3 million to conserve the three-storey, 15,000-square-foot, early-20th-century building. The money spent “is outrageous for the size of the building” but worth it, he says
The building currently serves as the sales centre for 1111 Atwater, but will eventually house a ground-floor restaurant and upper-floor head offices of High-Rise Montreal and builder and developer EMD Batimo, a partner in the development.
Claridge, the private investment firm of Stephen Bronfman, is another partner in 1111 Atwater.
Kerub will also build a 20-storey tower next to 1111 Atwater. Its vocation has not been finalized, but he says the 156,000-square-foot building is the equivalent of 130 condos, 170 apartments or 100 hotel rooms.
“Why Montreal? Why now?”
More than half of the luxury condos have been reserved. They include a 38th-floor unit Kerub is buying, and an entire 10,000-square–foot floor purchased by another buyer.
The buyers of the units are Montrealers, says Pierre Ali, vice-president of sales and marketing at EMD Batimo. “It’s all Quebec Inc.”
Condo prices range between $1,300 and $2,000 per square foot, with an average price of $1,600 per square foot.
Francis Charron, president of Batimo and vice-president of EMD Construction, says three years ago it would have been “unimaginable” to build luxury condos in Montreal with such prices. Montreal is booming now in large part because of security issues and a low cost of living, Charron says.
Compared to cities like Paris, “Montreal is a safe city.”
Charron says he asked international investors “Why Montreal? Why now?” They told him only 20 per cent of their salary in Montreal goes toward their cost of living, versus 30 per cent in Toronto and 37 per cent in Vancouver.
“Montreal has some room to keep going, to keep booming,” he says.