Project includes hotel, apartments and townhouses
Canvar bucks condo trend with 40-storey tower
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.”