Daniel Revah had almost everything planned when he took charge of the transformation of the former motherhouse of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in Outremont. The excavation work carried out in the rock to create 300 places in an underground parking lot was particularly difficult. But it was the pandemic that gave him the most trouble, he reveals with a certain serenity.
The extreme transformation of the imposing building, built in 1925 on the north side of Mount Royal, at 1420, boulevard du Mont-Royal, is well advanced. The co-owners of about 40 apartments moved in last fall, 18 months late. They are already enjoying the indoor swimming pool, squash court and training room. Some even do yoga in the beautiful chapel. There will be more of them in about three months, when 45 more homes will be ready. There are about fifty left for sale, with an average area of 2,000 sq. ft., at prices varying between 1.7 and 4.5 million.
“The building is 630,000 square feet,” says Revah. Downtown, 600 to 900 apartments would be built in an equivalent area. You had to have a vision. »
From the start, the project was very high-end. The promoter entrusted the design of the plans to the architect Karl Fischer, whose team continued the work after his death in March 2019.
The huge building has been divided into six, to make it more intimate. “There are six elevators, serving different sections, in place from the start,” says Sabine Karsenti, real estate broker and former sales manager. There are dead ends everywhere. And there are four garage entrances. Each elevator leads almost directly to a limited number of apartments. »
He had previously converted other existing buildings into condominiums, such as 10 Saint-Jacques in Old Montreal and Redfern in Westmount. He had also just completed the construction of a 40-story condominium building in downtown Montreal.
Faced with the slow sales of the apartments located on the ground floor, whose ceilings were only 9 feet (2.7 m) high, he decided to break the slab to lower the floor by 4 feet (1. 2m). In doing so, it was also necessary to uncover the foundation, which was covered with St. Mark’s stone.
The first buyers took a leap of faith, he reveals. “We would show them around a building that was Beirut and show them the views,” he recalls. They were still able to see the space and the 13 or 14 foot high ceilings. We were able to play with the plumbing and keep heights almost 12 feet for everyone. Almost 80 apartments could really be personalized. Now it’s a little different. We are at another stage. »
The pandemic has further complicated the work, multiplying the delays. Time and time again, the developer was confronted with the distress of buyers, struggling with their own tragedies when COVID-19 struck repeatedly and the site was constantly put on hold. All the while, the bills kept piling up.
“It was a heavy burden for one man to bear,” said Sabine Karsenti, who played an important role with customers in allaying apprehensions.
Daniel Revah would like to congratulate the first 75 buyers, who trusted them both. The deposits were considerable and their totality was not guaranteed, at the beginning.
To give an idea, one condo alone sold for 12 million. Another co-owner, a car collector, paid nearly $1 million to purchase 11 parking spaces.
“You had to be crazy,” he exclaims, thinking of the pitfalls he’s been through since he fell in love with the chapel.
“She was my inspiration,” he says. It is so beautiful, I wanted to restore it. It is not mine, I bequeath it to the condominium association. But I would like there to be the option of renting it, for example to do a collaboration with the Vincent-d’Indy music school, next door. »
Allowing the occasion to make the chapel accessible to a wider public is part of the request that the developer has made, in order to add other uses to the building than the residential one. Authorizing the integration of a restaurant, the rental of cellar spaces and indoor urban agriculture are also subject to public consultation, raising strong protests in the neighborhood.
Whatever happens, Mr. Revah takes the situation philosophically. Because it is no longer his responsibility. Despite the many challenges, he did very well, he says. And he’s glad he did.
Avenue Querbes, in Outremont, the transformation of an old chapel and the neighboring heritage building is progressing smoothly. After having transformed the former convent of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, anchored on the northern flank of Mount Royal, the three entrepreneurs at the head of the Demonfort company seek this time to prove themselves worthy of the trust that granted them the Clercs de Saint-Viateur.
“Both the missionary sisters and the clerics chose us because our approach was in line with the image they had of what would happen next,” says Florent Moser, co-founder of the company. It’s a legacy they made and it’s our responsibility to do something that will last a long time. Each project must make sense in the environment in which it is located. »
The former convent of the nuns, which dominates Côte-Sainte-Catherine Road in Outremont, has become a welcoming place for families and couples of all ages. The Maisons Outremont complex now includes 65 apartments. The future La Chapelle – Maisons Outremont II complex will feature 78 condominium apartments. As its name suggests, the former chapel of the Clercs of Saint-Viateur, which will include common areas, is at the heart of the project, giving it a special cachet. In both cases, Demonfort called on ACDF Architecture.
“Of all the transformations of heritage buildings that we have done in the past, the La Chapelle project is the one where we are most comfortable,” said Florent Moser, who, like his partners, Ali Lakhdari and David Lafrance, grew up in Outremont. and still lives there. Experience helps us understand the issues and difficulties that can arise in this type of project. »
The trio, very active in Outremont, also has a good idea of what the borough is looking for.
The relatively small number of units in each of the two complexes also suits them perfectly. “Customers are not their first purchases and want to make some changes,” he says. At 65 or 78 condos, apartment customization is still manageable. »
Six spacious apartments will be located on the top three floors of the late 19th-century building, which sits next to the chapel. It has long been nicknamed La Bastille, because of its fortress-like appearance. The ground floor will be reserved for a daycare. Above, a new central elevator will open directly into two condos per floor. The other 72 apartments, with a minimum area of approximately 1,200 ft2 (111.4 m2), will be located in a new L-shaped building, which will showcase the old chapel like a showcase.
“The interest for co-owners living in new buildings is that they will still be able to have access to the chapel, indicates Sabine Karsenti, real estate broker and sales manager. The lights of the old chapel will be restored and reintegrated. This will be warm and will be near the main entrance. There will be a living room, a place to work, a conference room, a reception room with a kitchenette and a library, upstairs. »
“There aren’t a lot of places that offer this type of architecture,” Moser said. We must not deny the past, where interesting things have happened. I think it attracts people, who like to have a unique property. »
Florent Moser, Ali Lakhdari and David Lafrance, all three of whom have children and are in their 40s, are aiming for LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – which they are also doing in the Perspectives Bates project). Each space in the underground parking lot can thus be equipped with an electric car charging station.
“We think that’s where it’s all going to go,” notes Moser. You have to make the effort. »
Waste management is one of the big challenges they face. “During the demolition, all the elements like concrete, steel and brick were separated and then recovered. It goes from there. Then, when you build, you have to manage the waste. Each type of material has its container. The goal is to recycle as much as possible and have the least amount of stuff buried. »
There are many rules to follow. But from the outset, giving new life to a site where there was already habitation does not have a big negative impact on the planet, he points out. “We’re densifying,” he said. And we green, by removing asphalt. It’s more trouble than buying a big piece of land. But for me, it’s the best way to do it. »