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Ex rivals now partners: RoseFellow plans its first development

Two former rivals at Montreal developers Montoni and Broccolini have founded their own real estat...

IMAGE: Mike Jager and Sam Tsoumas are the co-founders of RoseFellow in Montreal. (Courtesy RoseFellow)

Mike Jager and Sam Tsoumas are the co-founders of RoseFellow in Montreal. (Courtesy RoseFellow)

Two former rivals at Montreal developers Montoni and Broccolini have founded their own real estate company, closed on their first development property and are kicking off a $90-million luxury multiresidential project in the borough of Saint-Laurent.

Competitors turned friends Mike Jager and Sam Tsoumas have launched RoseFellow and will build the 11-storey, 270-unit Le 111 at 111 Alexis-Nihon Blvd. near Côte de Liesse Road and Highway 40. Having just closed on the purchase of the property, they say construction could begin in the fall, barring another coronavirus-related construction shutdown.

RoseFellow also plans to announce two new industrial builds in Montreal this summer, one in the West Island and one in the eastern sector. One will be devoted to e-commerce, while the other will be more of a traditional multi-tenant development.

The RoseFellow co-founders and co-presidents butted heads for more than a decade as competitors. Jager was the director and principal director of business development at Montoni while Tsoumas was the director, real estate development and leasing at Broccolini.

“There was always one competitor that stood out for me whenever we went to bid on any project,” says Jager. “It was all Broccolini and specifically Sam. Many people in the industry called it Team Blue against Team Red.”

Tsoumas recalls he’d walk into a pitch while Jager was walking out, or vice versa.

“We wanted to see each other fail. We were competitors.”

Development rivals become friends

However,  over time and seeing each other at real estate and cocktail events, the two went from being competitors to respected rivals. When they realized they had wives and kids with similar ages and similar work experiences, the friendship began.

Jager recalls the two joked over a meal that it would be great to join forces instead of being against each other on every big file in the city. “At that point, we didn’t think of going off on our own: It was either Sam joining Montoni or me joining Broccolini.”

And so, in February 2018 Tsoumas joined Jager at Montoni as director of business development. 

“We soon realized we had the right intent, which was to work together, but it wasn’t for someone else. From a young age, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Jager says.

“It came to a point where I wanted to do something for myself and I think Sam had the same vision as well.

“We realized it was better that we take the risk and the leap of faith and try opening up our own company.”

Leaving to form RoseFellow

Montoni founder and president Dario Montoni was “a complete gentleman” over news of the duo’s departure, Tsoumas says. “He basically said ‘Guys, I don’t blame you. Go do exactly what I did. You’re going to do great.’ ”

Upon leaving Montoni last September, the two posted on LinkedIn that they planned to start their own company. Within the first week, phones started to ring and meetings with potential investors followed.

“They believed what we said was genuine. It wasn’t smoke and mirrors,” Jager says. “That reassured us there’s still a huge demand for investment” in the sectors in which the company plans to focus – industrial, multiresidential and mixed-use (multires with a bit of retail).

The RoseFellow name comes from a desire to have a company moniker that would stand the test of time and not be based on their last names. A rose is beautiful and fellow (short for fellowships) is based on the word relationships.

The RoseFellow partners found their first opportunity in Saint-Laurent, where Jager grew up and knows the market well.

The Le 111 apartment development

IMAGE: 111 Alexis Nihon will be the site of RoseFellow's first multifamily development, Le 111. (Courtesy RoseFellow)

111 Alexis-Nihon Blvd., in Montreal will be the site of RoseFellow’s first multifamily development, Le 111. (Courtesy RoseFellow)

Le 111 is “a great opportunity for us” because the rental vacancy rate is below two per cent in Saint-Laurent with limited new inventory, Jager says.

RoseFellow acquired the vacant, 115,000-square-foot site for $11 million. It includes a 38,000-square-foot forested area that will be exclusive for residents.

A small LP has been assembled for the project. Jager and Tsoumas declined to name the investors, who so far are locals.

The building, across the highway from Carbonleo’s new Royalmount project, will have a gross buildable area of 430,000 square feet and include two levels of indoor parking. Construction should take about 18 months.

Units range from studios to one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments to luxury penthouses. Rents have not been finalized but could be in the $2.15- to $2.30-per-square-foot range.

Features will include a dog park, rooftop pool, 24-hour security, year-round atrium open to the elements with heated floors and Amazon delivery lockers.

Condos do not appeal to Jager and Tsoumas.

“We’re looking at something we could retain long-term,” Tsoumas says of multiresidential. “We look at this as branding RoseFellow.”

Future industrial for RoseFellow

The RoseFellow partners are also proponents of building industrial on spec: “We’ve always seen the market as able to absorb it, regardless of the vacancy rate,” Tsoumas says.

Jager, a big proponent of Montreal, has always had the city to heart – and to arm: His right arm has tattoos of Montreal landmarks, like the Jacques Cartier Bridge to St. Joseph’s Oratory and Olympic Stadium.

Tired of hearing Montreal described as having “flat-lined” at real estate conferences in Toronto, Jager decided years ago to become a major booster for the city. He produced and showed off slick videos at the forums, extolling the city’s virtues.

“It kind of bothered me,” Jager says. “Ever since then, I’ve been an advocate for the city. That’s all I want to do, is promote this city.”

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