By BERTRAND MAROTTE
Special to The Globe and Mail
Friday, April 20, 2018
MONTREAL -- Montreal's iconic Golden Square Mile is at the heart of a gold rush of residential and hotel real estate investment that is helping burnish the city's status as a luxe international destination.
Developers are upping the ante in the prestige-building stakes with several amenity-rich condo towers and hotel/residences in the downtown area, including high-profile projects in the Golden Square Mile district, where the city's 19th-century barons of commerce and finance built their opulent Victorian mansions and houses of worship.
The hotel-residence concept - a combination of hotel and condominium units - is gathering momentum, with the marquee project being the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Montreal. It is set to open in two phases: end of the year for the condos and first quarter of 2019 for the hotel.
Toronto-based Four Seasons has partnered with Quebec real estate developer and property manager Carbonleo Real Estate Inc. on the $250-million hotelcondo building on de la Montagne and Ste. Catherine streets; it is integrated with luxury shopping and dining facilities as well as the storied Ogilvy high-end department store being revamped and rebranded as Holt Renfrew Ogilvy.
The 18-storey tower will include 147 rooms, 19 suites and 18 residences whose prices range from $3.5-million to more than $15-million, currently the top end of the luxury condo market in Montreal. The $15.435-million price tag for the 6,910-square-foot penthouse palace at the very top represents the highest MLS listing price to date for a condo in Montreal, said Murielle Zagury, vicepresident of marketing at Carbonleo.
Among features touted by the promoter are the 12-and-a-halffoot-high penthouse ceilings; gas fireplaces on the south-facing private terraces; 6,000-square-foot ballroom in the hotel; direct indoor access to the various bars, restaurants and shopping venues; grey-tinted glass curtain wall incorporating gold mullion inlay; and 24-hour concierge service.
The Four Seasons' hotel-condo formula follows similar ventures over the past several years in Montreal, notably the venerable Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Sherbrooke Street and Hôtel Le Crystal on de la Montagne. New projects are also on the drawing boards or have broken ground, such as the fourstar Humaniti Hotel at the corner of Viger and de Bleury streets.
Some observers say hotel residences can play a role in rejuvenating downtown districts, help attract foreign investment while also doing their bit to add muchdesired residential density to the downtown.
"The hotel-residence model - linked to luxury brands - is the logical development of the growth in the Montreal condominium market," said Mark Conway, president and senior partner at Toronto real estate consultants NBLC. "It's not surprising to see both Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons investing in Montreal given its international profile.
"Getting five-star brands is very important to the city in terms of attracting and retaining international investment."
The Four Seasons venture actually marks a return to Montreal of the global luxury hospitality chain after an absence of about 20 years.
Hotel residences and condos in the downtown are proving attractive to foreigners looking for a pied-à-terre in the city, to downsizing empty-nesters and to young professionals, observers say. A robust economy, still relatively low interest rates and political stability in the province have helped.
"I think that a variety of factors are at play [in Montreal's downtown condo boom]; for example, higher incomes thanks to the stronger economy, more foreign buyers who are discovering Montreal, especially after British Columbia and Ontario imposed taxes on foreign buyers, but I don't know in what proportion they are acting," said Raphaël Fischler, associate professor at McGill University's School of Urban Planning.
There were 389 condos sold in the Ville-Marie borough - which takes in the downtown - in the $500,000-and-up category for the 12 months ended February, 2018, said Paul Cardinal, head of market analysis at the Québec Federation of Real Estate Boards. That's up 46 per cent from the year-earlier period. The figure covers resales only but is still a good indicator of the overall excellent health of the high-end condo market, he said.
Eve Paré, president and chief executive officer of the Association des hôtels du Grand Montréal, says there has definitely been a change in the perception of Montreal.
"What's been really noticeable in the past four or so years is a shift in how we position Montreal as a destination," she said. "We used to sell ourselves very cheap."
When you purchase a condo at the Ritz or the Four Seasons, "you're buying a brand. Owning a Four Seasons or a Ritz property is something that is glamorous," she said.
Incorporating private residences in the hotel also allows the developer to charge a premium for the branded property, which comes with unlimited access to hotel services and amenities.
"It's the way you finance the renovation or the development of the hotel," said Andrew Torriani, the CEO and general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Montreal, which reopened in 2012 after a major renovation that reduced the number of rooms, enlarged many of them and added 45 condo units. People who buy hotel residences are attracted to the "carefree lifestyle" of being able to amble down to the on-site restaurant for dinner or staying in and ordering room service, he added.
Andrew Lutfy, chairman of Carbonleo, says the Four Seasons mixed-use luxury project will reinject life and energy into Montreal's downtown. "What it does is reinforce the desirability, the credibility of that area. It's probably the fastest growing area on the Island of Montreal in terms of density today.
"The downtown has been neglected for a long, long time."
Ms. Zagury of Carbonleo describes the interconnected cluster comprising the Four Seasons hotel, condos, restaurants, lounges, bars and shopping as "a very unique type of luxury eco-system." Total cost of the mixed-use development is about $500-million.
Just a bit farther south is another branded residential concept: Phase 3 of the Tour des Canadiens condo project, across from the Bell Centre entertainment venue and home of the storied Montreal Canadiens NHL hockey team. The Tour, and the two other condo towers in the same area built earlier, sport the iconic redand-white CH logo and have tieins and special access to Habs games, events and promotions.
Ground was recently broken on Phase 3 sooner than originally planned because of the greaterthan-anticipated presales strength, according to the partners, Toronto-based Cadillac Fairview Corp., Canderel Group of Montreal and Club de hockey Canadien. The $150-million, 565unit tower will top out at 55 stories, making it one of the tallest in the city. Towers 1 and 2 are 50 storeys.
The TDC3, as its promoters call it, is publicized as a living space on par with the hotel lifestyle: "TDC3 offers its own distinctive and outstanding indoor facilities that rival those of the most sought after hotels worldwide," the sales website proclaims.
Amenities include party rooms, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, a games space and a 55th floor "skylounge."
Plans also call for 12 townhouses on the south side, facing a new two-acre park being planned by the city.
"The speed at which we are breaking ground, only a few months into sales, is without precedent in the Montreal market," Brian Salpeter, senior VP of development for Eastern Canada at Cadillac Fairview, said in a news release.
The condo prices at TDC3 range from $360,000 to just under $2-million.
The Tours des Canadiens are part of an ambitious $2-billion, 15year development plan - dubbed Quad Windsor - led by Cadillac Fairview, the real estate arm of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.
The mixed-use project - office, residential, retail, entertainment - aims to revitalize and extend southward Montreal's downtown and is centred on the area around the Bell Centre and historic Windsor Station; the latter now serves as a venue for public and private events. Quad Windsor is a variation on the mixed-use Maple Leaf Square in Toronto, located next to the Air Canada Centre sportsand-entertainment venue.
The Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Montreal will open in two phases: end of 2018 for the condos and first quarter of 2019 for the hotel.
RENDERINGS BY CARBONLEO REAL ESTATE
The Four Seasons will have 147 rooms, 19 suites and 18 residences that range from $3.5-million to $15.435-million for the penthouse.