Feature by TRACEY LINDEMAN, SPECIAL TO MONTREAL GAZETTE
Published on : November 11, 2016
Jan Weber has one of the best views in the city. From her living-room window, she can see the St. Lawrence River, St. Joseph’s Oratory and as far west as the MUHC mega-hospital — not to mention the killer sunsets.
Weber lives high above Montreal, on the 45th floor of the Tour des Canadiens.
Well, actually, she doesn’t quite live there — at least not at the moment. She and her son bought the condo together as an investment. Now, Weber, the membership director of a west-end sports club, is like seemingly a fair number of her fellow buyers, looking to rent her condo. About three-quarters of the building’s 553 units have been occupied so far.
A self-described Habs nut (no relation to Shea Weber) and “West Island girl,” she snapped up the 750-square-foot, one-bedroom condo after the initially forecasted tower sold out and two more floors were added to its stature to respond to demand. It was $418,000, plus tax. She also got a free Nespresso machine out of it.
“To me, the Habs are the heart and the hub of the city, and I just thought it was a really unique project. My son and I bought (the condo) together as an investment and it turned out that we both fell in love with it,” Weber says.
The project’s affiliation with the hockey franchise — commemorated by a giant CH logo at the top of the tower — inspired buyers to stake their claims early. With units starting at $250,000 and going up to $1 million-ish for the penthouses, the building sold out in three months.
Terry Fraser-Reid, Cadillac Fairview’s vice-president of development, says a parallel can be drawn between the clamour and bustle of the nearby downtown core and the energy of the team and its fans: “As much as anything, the Montreal Canadiens as a brand really captures the spirit of the area.”
A little history
The two Tour des Canadiens towers, both 50 storeys high, are part of a larger development called Quad Windsor, a collection of high-rises that surround the Bell Centre and Windsor Station.
Because it is a heritage building, developer Cadillac Fairview can’t change the facade or add to the height of Windsor Station — but the company does say it will “improve” the 19th-century ex-railroad headquarters. Regardless of that, the Quad Windsor project will permanently change the landscape of the surrounding area.
The condo craze in nearby Griffintown, formerly a working-class neighbourhood, has crept up the hill from the Lachine Canal, razing derelict buildings and empty lots in the process.
Until recently, the area behind the Bell Centre was occupied by buildings that had also seen better days. Those included a famed band-rehearsal spot known simply as 1180 St-Antoine and its neighbour, opened in 1914 as an immigrant welcome centre before it became a First World War-era internment site for “enemy aliens.” They’ve both been demolished for the Tour des Canadiens 2.
Cadillac Fairview did face some criticism when it announced its plans to completely redevelop the area with Quad Windsor in 2012, but by then it was a done deal. The developer broke ground on the first Tour des Canadiens — adjacent to the Bell Centre — in June 2013. (The two condo buildings count $325 million in investments from the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, the Canadiens, Candarel and majority owner Cadillac Fairview.)
“For a long time, these lands between the Bell Centre and ÉTS in particular — not just Griffintown — have been sitting fallow and under-utilized,” says Fraser-Reid. “I think the best way to address it is to put the land back to use.”
The second phase
You can still detect the new-paint smell in Weber’s condo. With perfect white walls, tall ceilings, smaller-than-average kitchen and laundry appliances, a kitchen table built into the counter and a walk-in closet that doubles as a passageway from the bedroom to the bathroom, the condo’s built-in functionality is quintessentially European.
For the price Weber paid — plus about $250 a month in condo fees — she also gets access to an outdoor pool, a gym packed with new state-of-the-art fitness equipment and ample communal space that includes a lounge with a massive TV, a row of barbecues out on the patio and party rooms that can be reserved by residents to host events larger than a condo would allow.
The Tour des Canadiens 2 tower, currently under construction and scheduled for completion in 2019, will embody the modern European style of the first. In the unrealistically tidy model condos on display on the ground floor of the project’s sales office, designers have managed to squeeze two bedrooms into a 705-square-foot unit, enclosing one of them with sliding frosted-glass doors. The 1,000-square-foot one, which among other things has a larger living room and kitchen area, is impeccably decorated with a minimalist esthetic. It also has decals of the city’s nighttime skyline in the “windows” to simulate the sky-high view.
“The idea is to show that you can live in 700 or 1,000 square feet quite practically,” says Jeroen Henrich, vice-president of development and asset management at Candarel, the project’s promoter.
To help compensate for the tight quarters, the Tour des Canadiens 2 will also have a variety of communal spaces, including a wine bar, an indoor-outdoor pool, gym and a top-floor lounge. The building will also connect to the Bell Centre, the métro system and the underground city.
“In terms of the amenity package, that’s probably the best you can get in downtown Montreal at the moment,” Henrich says.
And, of course, residents have one advantage that it truly unique to this particular project: The proximity to the Habs. In a city fuelled by hockey fandom, that may be its most priceless attribute.
“You get to be at centre ice,” says Henrich.