Proment Corp. has kicked off the seventh-and-final development phase of its multi-year Quartier Pointe Nord project on Montreal’s Nuns’ Island with construction of the $150-million Evolo Nex tower.
The 26-storey, 258-unit residential tower is the latest addition to one of the few LEED ND Gold-certified neighbourhoods in Canada. When it’s completed in about six years, the $700-million, 1.1-million-square-foot Quartier Pointe Nord will include about 2,200 residential units.
Facing the St. Lawrence River and close to the Champlain Bridge, the latest addition to Pointe Nord will be minutes away from the upcoming REM light-rail station on Nuns’ Island.
“In 2005, Pointe Nord was an isolated piece of land that was cut off from the rest of Nuns’ Island,” says Ilan Gewurz, executive vice-president of Proment.
The challenge was to create a neighbourhood where people would want to live, like the other side of Nuns’ Island which is home to a coveted forest area and golf course.
The concept for Quartier Pointe Nord
Proment spent 2006 to 2008 working with top urban planners in Canada and the U.S. to create a master plan that would transform the isolated site 15 minutes from downtown into “a world-class community” with 270-degree river and downtown views and quick highway access.
The plan that was developed provides parkland and pedestrian access along the river “because Montreal is an island, but you don’t have a lot of access to the river.”
To give the development a human and walkable scale, Pointe Nord combines a diversity of housing – townhouses, six-to-eight storey mid-rises and 25- to 37-storey high-rises.
A square was built that hosts concerts and farmers markets in the warmer months, larger trees that mature faster than average were planted and, on the retail front, major franchised outlets were turned down in favour of local mom and pop shops.
The idea, Gewurz says, was “to create a neighbourhood that has soul.”
Along with becoming one of Canada’s first LEED Gold neighbourhoods, each of the towers in the development has sought LEED certification, with some achieving Gold, others Silver.
The Evolo Nex 1 condominiums
Delivery of Evolo Nex 1 is targeted for the end of 2024.
Forty-five per cent of the building sold in three months “in a context of high interest rates and uncertainty and inflation and scary times when a lot of projects were stopped.”
About 15 per cent of buyers hail from the South Shore, while another 15 per cent are from downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods.
Some 60 per cent of buyers already live on Nuns’ Island. Based on interviews, people like the neighbourhood for the reasons laid out in Proment’s master plan for Pointe Nord: views, walkability, access to the river, local commercial and sustainability.
Gewurz says Proment’s philosophy is that many people come to Nuns’ Island for more space and better lifestyles without losing their proximity to downtown.
A buyer who would spend $1,000 a square foot downtown for 600 square feet (or $600,000) can get about 750 to 800 square feet at Evolo Nex for that price.
Parking space, building height limitations
Development of Evolo Nex was delayed more than two years due to a dispute with the Verdun borough of Montreal over parking spaces.
The borough wanted to limit parking to 0.75 spots per unit based on its latest urban plan. Proment eventually negotiated 1.06 spots per dwelling.
However, the borough’s urban plan limits building heights to 178 metres. As a result, “we lost 15 floors from what we had originally intended,” Gewurz says.
“From a sustainable development perspective, I think it’s a mistake. Small footprints with lots of green space across from the light-rail is exactly where you want to put in density.”
As for the limitation on parking spaces, “it’s one thing to tell people you can’t have a second car, but when someone’s selling their big home in the South Shore and downsizing, to ask them to live with no car we felt was too big a risk to take.”
Another tower at the site, Evolo Nex 2, will have the same footprint and height, but will be subject to the new regulations, meaning only 0.75 parking spots per unit. That will result in a different unit configuration and possibly a building that will be geared toward renters.
Construction of Evolo Nex 2 will depend on the market and speed of sales of Nex 1, Gewurz says.
Pointe Nord could take another five years to complete, he adds, noting that land on the site currently being used as a construction parking lot could eventually become a rental property or hotel.
Pointe Nord and the Gewurz family
Proment has now built nearly 5,000 condominium units in 20 towers on Nuns’ Island and the Gewurz family is closely linked to the island’s development.
Gewurz’s grandfather was one of the partners who bought the land on Nuns’ Island in 1955 from the nuns of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame.
“From the moment they bought it, they regretted it and wanted to sell. The taxes were high and the island flooded every year, and they didn’t know how to get started. They were very desperate to get out.”
Fortunately, the partners made a deal with Metropolitan Structures of Chicago, which started to develop the island and put infrastructure in place.
By the late 1970s, with Montreal’s economy weakening and a referendum on sovereignty looming, Metropolitan Structures started selling land “but we kept the right of first refusal,” Gewurz says.
His father, Samuel Gewurz, wasn’t a developer at the time but saw that the buildings being constructed on Nuns’ Island weren’t of high quality and that a change was needed – buyers needed to be given reasons to buy, from well-built, attractively priced properties to incredible views.
Samuel Gewurz went on to build some of the first condo projects in Montreal.
Late last year, Proment president Samuel Gewurz was named to the Order of Canada for “his ground-breaking contributions to Montreal’s urban development and for his transformational philanthropy and community engagement.”