Montreal riding on the crest of a construction boom

Cranes crowd the Montreal skyline these days as a strong economy and political stability are fuelling a construction frenzy throughout the downtown core and beyond.

Although tame by Toronto and Vancouver standards, developers in Canada’s second-largest city are investing billions of dollars in new condominium and office complexes, along with retrofitting older buildings.

“Since 1976, this is one of the greatest times,” Mayor Denis Coderre told The Canadian Press. The mayor was alluding to the year when the election of the separatist Parti Quebecois prompted an exodus of residents and businesses.

“There [are] right now 150 cranes representing $25 billion of investment in Montreal,” he said at the official launch of the second phase of the YUL twin tower and townhouse project that is sponsored by Chinese investors.

Project developer Kheng Ly of Brivia Group Real Estate, who has partnered with China’s Tianco Group, said relatively low condo prices and the lack of a foreign buyers tax make Montreal an attractive place to invest.

Ly, who arrived in Canada 29 years ago, said the downtown landscape has changed significantly in the past five years. The recent addition of direct flights between China and Montreal have attracted Asian investors who comprise 35% to 40% of condo owners at the project’s first phase, he said.

Further evidence of the city’s construction boom can be seen along a short stretch to the Bell Centre where towers surrounding the home of the Habs are a symbol of the change that has been sweeping over the city.

A 55-storey glass building that will carry the famed Montreal Canadiens red and white logo has been launched after two previous towers featuring special access to the hockey complex were quickly sold out.

The project is part of a large development of residential and office buildings planned by Cadillac Fairview and its partner Canderel for Quad Windsor, an area near the historic rail station.

The association with one of sports’ most storied franchises is modelled after Toronto’s Maple Leaf Square and similar approaches in Los Angeles, Dallas and Edmonton.

Daniel Peritz of Canderel said outsiders are finally seeing the city’s potential.

“It’s very nice because for so many years we didn’t have that situation. We have it now and the rest of the country is recognizing it,” he said.

Royal LePage realtor Amy Assaad said that the last couple of years have been particularly strong.

Demand is hottest for condos priced between $300,000 and $400,000 along with high-end units, she said.

Assaad said she’s seeing more foreign buyers from Europe, China and the Middle East. In addition to good pricing, they are attracted to the city’s great university system, strong transit network and a sense of security.

“Everything is on our side right now,” she said in an interview.

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