Project in­cludes ho­tel, apart­ments and town­houses

Canvar bucks condo trend with 40-storey tower

Montreal Gazette - - Front Page - AL­LI­SON LAM­PERT THE GAZETTE

There will be up to 250 res­i­den­tial apart­ments in Canvar Group’s $60-mil­lion mixed project on René Lévesque Blvd. be­tween An­der­son and Bleury Sts., Al­li­son Lam­pert re­ports.

A new 40-storey glass tower un­der con­struc­tion down­town is buck­ing the city’s condo-build­ing craze.

In­stead Canvar Group Inc.’s es­ti­mated $60-mil­lion mixed project, with 230 to 250 res­i­den­tial apart­ments, is go­ing rental.

As The Gazette re­ported in its on­line edi­tion last week, Canvar is also build­ing town­houses and a 200-room Mar­riott Court­yard Ho­tel at the site – now a park­ing lot on René Lévesque Blvd. be­tween An­der­son and Bleury Sts.

Con­struc­tion has al­ready be­gun at the site, which the Ville Marie bor­ough calls “the most im­por­tant piece of va­cant land in the busi­ness district.”

The res­i­den­tial tower and 11-storey ho­tel are to be com­pleted in 2013, said Marc Varadi, who over­sees ho­tel devel­op­ment at the fam­i­lyrun com­pany. A struc­tural en­gi­neer, Varadi is work­ing on a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar Canvar project to trans­form the Hil­ton Dor­val into a ren­o­vated Sher­a­ton Ho­tel.

In an in­ter­view yes­ter­day, Varadi said Canvar opted to build rentals – in­stead of sub­di­vid­ing units for con­dos – be­cause the con­cept was sim­pler to ex­e­cute within the frame­work of a mixed ho­tel and res­i­den­tial project. What’s more, while low in­ter­est rates may have thrust home own­er­ship into the lime­light, de­mand for rentals is still strong in the down­town mar­ket, Varadi said.

“This is still a renters’ city,” he ob­served.

“And there are a lot of old rental build­ings.”

In­deed, Mon­treal’s rental real es­tate is ag­ing. Ac­cord­ing to data from the last cen­sus in 2006, 85 per cent of the rental in­ven­tory on Mon­treal Is­land was built be­fore 1975. Yet the va­cancy rate on Mon­treal Is­land is around three per cent.

In 2010, a record year for new condo build­ing, the new rental sec­tor was the only hous­ing seg­ment to de­crease, year over year, CMHC fig­ures pub­lished yes­ter­day show.

On Mon­treal Is­land, less than 3,000 rental units were started in 2010 – the low­est level since 2001. In De­cem­ber alone, rental hous­ing con­struc­tion dropped 17 per cent year over year.

And that’s mostly be­cause the area of the rental mar­ket which was boom­ing – re­tire­ment homes for se­niors – has slowed down, CMHC se­nior mar­ket an­a­lyst Ber­trand Recher ex­plained.

De­vel­op­ers tend to es­chew build­ing rentals for the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion be­cause they feel con­dos are sim­ply more profitable.

“De­vel­op­ers have seen the suc­cess of the condo sec­tor,” Recher said.

But Varadi of pri­vately owned Canvar, said he’s pre­dict­ing the Mar­riott Court­yard project will fare as well as the com­pany’s 2-year-old Hil­ton Gar­den Inn Ho­tel, which also has a con­nect­ing rental tower on Sherbrooke St. and Park Ave.

“It will be very sim­i­lar,” he said of the two projects. “We will be more or less in di­rect com­pe­ti­tion with our­selves.”

The 400 Sherbrooke, a 39-storey tower, is fully rented he said. Renters would have ac­cess to cer­tain ho­tel fa­cil­i­ties like the gym, steam room and Jacuzzi.

“This one’s fly­ing,” Varadi said of 400 Sherbrooke.

The Mar­riott Court­yard project will be built on a to­tal area of about 45,000 square feet. The devel­op­ment will in­clude a 5,000-square-foot gar­den, three lev­els of un­der­ground park­ing and a few town­houses that will blend in with the sur­round­ing area.

Varadi said he be­lieves there is am­ple de­mand in Mon­treal for a 200-room ho­tel.

“It’s not a mon­ster ho­tel. It’s not 800 rooms,” he said. “We think this one will be as suc­cess­ful or more.”

IL­LUS­TRA­TION: GROUPE CAN­VAR INC.

A ren­der­ing of the new 40-storey Mar­ri­ott Court­yard Ho­tel and res­i­den­tial tower to be built at the cor­ner of René Lévesque Blvd. and Bleury St.

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