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Omnia president to Montreal: We'll build housing if we can get approvals

Omnia Technologies is a partner in the development of the 350-unit 2600 Cavendish rental project on Cavendish Blvd. near Sherbrooke St. in Notre Dame de Grâce. (Courtesy Omnia)
Omnia Technologies is a partner in the development of the 350-unit 2600 Cavendish rental project on Cavendish Blvd. near Sherbrooke St. in Notre Dame de Grâce. (Courtesy Omnia)

Omnia Technologies has five residential projects under active development in Montreal and its president says it could have several more under construction if only the city would speed up its granting of permits.

“We have something like 15 pieces of land in Montreal that we are either building or developing or hoping to develop, so we have a good platform of projects to come for the next three, four years,” Jean-François Beaulieu, Omnia Technologies president, told RENX.

However, six or seven projects have financing in hand but are waiting for permits: “It’s very difficult,” Beaulieu said.

“It’s much longer than usual. Five years ago, it would take one year to get a permit; now it’s three years. We’re still buying land in Montreal but it’s a burden. It’s much more complicated than it was five years ago.”

Beaulieu, whose 50-employee firm was founded in 1985 as a construction company and still acts as a builder for its projects, is anxious to get more shovels into the ground: “If I could do all of these projects, I would do them right away.

“I would like to stay in Montreal because this is my playground,” he said. “If I don’t get any permits in Montreal, I will have to build somewhere else, but that’s not my goal.” 

Omnia developments waiting for approvals

He noted Omnia likes high-rise projects and there is a greater ability to do that in Montreal because the selling and rental prices are higher.

Among the projects awaiting a permit is a proposed 15-storey rental building at 325 René Lévesque Blvd. E. across from the CHUM (Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal) hospital. 

Omnia is also waiting for a permit for a three-tower project near the Assomption metro station, not far from the Olympic Stadium.

“I know a lot of developers are going out of the city because it’s very difficult to build and get permits, but we still believe that Montreal is a nice place to do project development,” he said.

Originally, Omnia developed only condos “because we needed to accumulate equity,” but the company is now splitting development equally between condos and rentals.

He notes it’s currently easier to do rental projects than to sell condos because high interest rates have given many potential buyers cold feet.

Omnia's development partners

Omnia’s equity partners in its rental projects all have their own management companies, he said. 

The company has partnered with Claridge on three or four projects, as well as with Fiera Real Estate, Ipso Facto and others.

In its current projects, Omnia is partnering with Fiera to build a more-than-$125 million, 350-unit 2600 Cavendish rental project on Cavendish Blvd. near Sherbrooke St. in the Notre Dame de Grâce neighbourhood.

It should be completed in 24 months. 

“It’s going to be quite a large project because it’s only one phase,” Bealieu saif of the mid-rise, 10-storey building that will feature a rooftop terrace with pool.

Prince W, a 120-unit rental project at 742 William in Old Montreal, is to be completed in September. Rents in the building, geared mainly to young professionals, range from $1,400 for a studio to $4,000 for a penthouse.

The 10-storey building features a large rooftop terrace with unobstructed views of Old Montreal and downtown.

Construction is also underway at Savana sur le Parc, a development at 4988 Place de la Savane in the Côte des Neiges neighbourhood that is being built in partnership with Claridge.

The condo development will have 84 units on 10 floors.

Building has just begun at 300 Young St. in Griffintown, beside the Ecole de technologie supériere engineering school.

The nine-storey rental project will contain mostly studios and one-bedrooms as its main clientele will be students. 

In addition, pre-sales have begun for Suma, a 166-unit condo development at 2198 de Maisonneuve Blvd. E. near the Jacques Cartier Bridge.

Beaulieu describes the project as a standard condo for young professionals, with minimal amenities to reduce condo fees.

Real estate developer award

In early May, Omnia received the Construire award Outstanding Real Estate Developer at the Association de la construction du Québec’s annual Construire awards gala.

The company won for its Théâtre Snowdon and Enticy condominium developments.

The seven-storey, 62-unit Théâtre Snowdon condo development on Décarie Boulevard was once home to an art deco movie theatre.

The theatre’s original marquee structure was preserved. Omnia was originally the builder of the project, but became co-developer while construction was underway. 

The 24-storey Enticy boutique condo was built on René-Lévesque Boulevard and Mackay Street in downtown Montreal. It was delivered in November 2021 and is 90 per cent sold.

“We’re quite proud of (the award) because we’ve only been a real estate developer for the last five years,” Beaulieu said.

While winning the award was a goal, “I was not expecting that it would come this year.”

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