BSR Group building most CSL projects: Six years in the making, development firm going strong

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2017-02-14-free-press-parkhaven-courtyard

By Isaac Olson, Free Press, Feb. 14, 2017

Ronen Basal grew up in Côte St. Luc. He has always called it home and now he is playing a key role in developing the city as director of BSR Group – an NDG-based company located at 6138 Côte St. Luc Rd., just east of Beaconsfield Ave.

Six years ago, BSR Group went from buying real estate throughout Montreal to constructing apartment complexes and homes across the island. When property prices started shooting up, construction began.

“We started with homes,” said Basal, noting those homes went in next door to the Quartier Cavendish near the corner of Cavendish Blvd. and Kildare Rd. “And we started with townhouses at the Parkhaven Courtyard.”

The new neighbourhood along the Park Place, Jubilee Rd. and The Avenue next door to Quartier Cavendish has changed the face of the city with million-dollar homes cropping up. A large, 90-unit apartment building is currently under construction there as well. Parkhaven Courtyard is a similar story, located at the corner of Kildare Rd. and Parkhaven Ave. where the developer has built 50 townhouses with three to four bedrooms each.

These projects are just the tip of the iceberg as the company has developments in NDG, Hampstead and across the island.

“We started with three employees and now we employ over 200,” said Basal. “Very successful.”

The 90-unit apartment building on The Avenue, directly across from the Quartier Cavendish, will include an indoor pool, Shabbat elevator, 24-hour security guard, appliances, ground floor commercial and more. It will be an upper-scale apartment complex, he said, that will likely attract many older people looking to downsize from their single-family homes. This is a demographic, he explained, that no longer wants all the hassle that comes with property ownership. They are looking for something more temporary.

With senior homes closing in the area, this apartment complex could be an alternative for some, he said. While it may not have assisted living, it is in close proximity to all the services found at the mall next door, he noted. Residents won’t need a car, he said, as they get all they need in the area.

Parkhaven Courtyard will be getting a 150-unit building and construction on that will begin in April. That facility, noted Basal, won’t have a pool because it is next door to the Aquatic Community Centre.

The high-end apartments will have large family rooms, 24- hour surveillance, a Shabbat elevator and more.

“We just finished a few projects on Côte St. Luc Rd.,” he added, including one right in front of the Côte St. Luc Shopping Centre. Another with 59 rental units is going up where Bernie’s Auto used to be at the corner of Montclair Ave. In fact, BSR Group’s headquarters is located in a building that it developed after the previous structure burned several years ago.

“I grew up in Côte St. Luc and lived there all my life, since the age of seven when we came from Israel. Côte St. Luc is a home for me. It’s where my synagogue is. It’s where my kids go to school. It’s where my friends are.”

Basal admits that the company heads and city politicians don’t always agree, but there is a willingness to discuss issues and find compromises.

“We have a good relationship with the city councillors and mayor, which encourages us to build,” said Basal. The company builds across Montreal, but it concentrates on Côte St. Luc because, he said, “We used to be the people in two- and three-bedroom apartments. We know the market. We know what people want and we feel, knowing the market inside out, we know the demand.”

St. Laurent Mayor DeSousa optimistic about Cavendish extension

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By: Councillor Mike Cohen

Cote Saint-Luc City Council welcomed St. Laurent Borough Mayor Alan DeSousa to City Hall recently.

DeSousa

Mayor Brownstein and Council welcome Alan DeSousa.

De Sousa served as Councillor in St. Laurent from 1990 to 2001, following which he was elected borough mayor for four consecutive terms. He also sat as a member of the City of Montreal Executive for 11 years, and served as Vice-Chair. During these years, he was responsible for finance and administration, economic development, long-term planning, hydraulic infrastructures, environment and parks, as well as for sustainable development.

In the private sector, DeSousa  served as Vice-President, Corporate Finance, at BioChem Pharma, a publicly owned Canadian company. He also worked as a corporate tax specialist in international taxation at Ernst & Young. Throughout these years, his social involvement in numerous community and charitable organizations has never ceased.

Our council often invites political colleagues to meet with us. In the case of DeSousa, we spoke about issues such as transportation and of course the extension of Cavendish Boulevard.

“Cavendish is getting to the point of political acceptance,” DeSousa commented. “Right now it seems to be going on the right track. Cavendish is on the rails. We have to keep pushing it.”

DeSousa is confident that Phase One of the long-anticipated extension will occur in 2019-20 with a connection from Royalmount to St. Laurent.

Phase Two would entail the connection from Cote Saint-Luc up to Royalmount.

Later in the same week DeSousa announced his intention to seek the Liberal nomination in the federal riding of St. Laurent- Cartierville, recently vacated by Stéphane Dion.

 

Meadowbrook case expected in court late this year

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 The ongoing legal case involving Meadowbrook Golf Course developer Meadowbrook Groupe Pacific and the City of Côte St. Luc is expected to be back at Quebec Superior Court at the end of this year, says Côte St. Luc Councillor Dida Berku.

“We are now preparing our defence and we’re in the middle of doing examinations, and the case should be inscribed by the end of the year for hearing on the merits,” Berku told The Suburban.

A separate case between the developers and the City of Montreal over the latter’s refusal to allow building on the Lachine side is expected this spring, the councillor added.

Côte St. Luc was originally sued by Meadowbrook’s developer in 2000 when the city changed the zoning of its part of the golf course site from residential to recreational and commercial. Developers have been wanting to place housing on the site, half of which is in Lachine, for more than 25 years.

The original lawsuit lay dormant for years, until Groupe Pacific changed its lawsuit to claim $32 million — $19 million of which was to force the city to basically buy the part of the land in its territory — a land swap: and $13 million for loss of profits, reduced by Quebec Superior Court from $20 million.

As we reported in 2015, “the Quebec Superior Court found that the revised case was a “new recourse” not allowed by the Code of Procedure, and did not allow the company to pursue the $19 million claim. The court also found Groupe Pacific to be the cause of the original lawsuit being in limbo for some 12 years.

Late in 2015, Groupe Pacific wanted to amend its lawsuit once again, to claim another $20 million. The developer wanted the Quebec Court of Appeal to state its opinion on the merits of such a re-amendment to the Quebec Superior Court. But the Court of Appeal ruled that it cannot decide on this in advance and that the Superior Court would have to decide if Groupe Pacific can reamend its claim. This was also Côte St. Luc’s position, Berku said at the time.

Cavendish extension moving forward: Brownstein

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Free Press | Nov. 29, 2016 | Click to enlarge

Free Press | Nov. 29, 2016 | Click to enlarge

Fire Department to the rescue at CSL vCOP meeting, Volunteers recognized for quick action

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The recent bi-monthly Patrol Meeting of Cote Saint-Luc’s volunteer Citizens on Patrol group was both educational and interesting. We welcomed guest speakers
Richard Liebman, Assistant Director of the Montreal Fire Department for Strategic and Operational Planning, as well as Louise Desrosiers, Division Chief, serving the territory including Cote Saint-Luc and surrounding areas.
Rick Liebman, Assistant Director, Montreal Fire Department (vCOP, Oct. 5, 2016)

Rick Liebman, Assistant Director, Montreal Fire Department (vCOP, Oct. 5, 2016)

Rick is no stranger to CSL. He is a longtime volunteer at the Emergency Measures Organization (which became EMS) going back to the 1980s and eventually rose to serve as Director of the CSL EMS first responder service.
Rick also became a firefighter in CSL and in 2002 moved to the Montreal Fire Department as part of the forced mega-merger. Impressively, he rose in the ranks to the position of Assistant Director.
Rick and Louise described how the FD responds to 128,000 calls each year. 80,000 of these calls are first response medical calls. The FD covers first response across the Island of Montreal with the single exception of Cote Saint-Luc where the highly skilled volunteer EMS is the authorized responder.
Louise Desrosiers, Division Chief, Montreal Fire Department (vCOP, Oct. 5, 2016)

Louise Desrosiers, Division Chief, Montreal Fire Department (vCOP, Oct. 5, 2016)

What’s more, those needing assistance during an evacuation may register online on the Montreal Fire Department website. The firefighters will be advised en route to a building of such residents requiring assistance.
Liebman reminded the vCOP members, “When you change the clocks change your batteries in your smoke detectors”. Of course, with the vCOP Smoke Detector Brigade as a major community initiative the volunteer needed little reminding in this area.
Liebman congratulated our city for our sprinkler bylaw. “CSL an early leader in fire sprinklers,” the Assistant Director said. As the councillor responsible for the adoption of this bylaw, along with Councillor Ruth Kovac and supported by the late Chief of Prevention of the CSL FD, Doug Lions, in the early 90s I took great pride in this compliment.
I would be remiss in not saluting the Montreal Fire Department, Service Incendie de Montreal, for recently translating much of its website into English to benefit a great number of residents of the Agglomeration of Montreal.
With the formal presentations done the supervisors distributed 10 years pins to several members.
vCOP members receive their 10 year recognition pins, October 2016

vCOP members receive their 10 year recognition pins, October 2016

The next Recruiting Evening was announced for October 25 at 7pm at City Hall. Any one interested in joining vCOP is encouraged to attend.
With some members getting on in years it was decided to launch an Associate Member classification for vCOP. Those who have given at least a few years of service would be welcomed into the Associate program where they would no longer be required to do at least two patrol shifts each month but could offer their time in other ways as well. In this way they could continue to be active, although less often, in ensuring that vCOP remains a strong visible deterrent to criminal activity in and around CSL.
Congratulations to the most recent Patroller of the Month: David Goldsmith.
CSL Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson, Bernie and Cokkie Band and vCOP Supervisor Mitchell Herf

CSL Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson, Bernie and Cokkie Band and vCOP Supervisor Mitchell Herf

Bernie and Cookie Band were recognized for putting together the statistics for the group for the last 10 years.
Volunteers Robert McDuff and Jeff Smith were recognized with a certificate of appreciation for their quick thinking and sharp eye in spotting a young woman in distress in Rabin Park. The vCOP duo kept her as alert as possible while awaiting the arrival of Public Security and EMS. Their intervention was most important in getting this woman to needed medical care and ensuring her personal safety.
The recognition certificate read:
We wish to recognize your professionalism and exemplary contributions to the vCOP program during the event last September. While on patrol, you and your partner came to the aid of a woman in need of medical assistance. Through your rapid intervention, you have made the City of Côte Saint-Luc proud and have highlighted the value that the vCOP program brings to the people of Côte Saint-Luc.
Your contributions radiate across the membership and help to portray a positive and professional image of our organization. With a core mission of helping our citizens and ensuring their safety, your actions contributed directly to the mission and for this reason, we want to demonstrate our appreciation.
McDuff and Smith represent the best that vCOP offers in delivering sharp observation and summoning the necessary emergency resources when most needed.
“Being part of helping the girl was the highlight  of my approximate 1000 hours of patrol.  I only wish I knew how she was doing,” said Smith. “Having watched people just walking by this young lady, it was our actions that helped her and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. How the city acknowledged us was more then I could have asked for.”
Congratulations to you both.
Jeff Smith and Robert McDuff are presented with a special recognition by Public Safety Chief Philip Chateauvert and Supervisor Mitchell Herf on Oct. 5, 2016

Jeff Smith and Robert McDuff are presented with a special recognition by Public Safety Chief Philip Chateauvert and Supervisor Mitchell Herf on Oct. 5, 2016

If you would like to help contribute like those dedicated volunteers mentioned above please join us on October 25.

City of Côte-St-Luc eyes CP rail yards for development

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Shaun Michaud, Montreal Gazette

The Canadian Pacific rail yards take up about one-third of Côte St-Luc — land that the city would like to re-purpose.
Mayor Mitchell Brownstein says owning that land “would be a great boon for the city,” which “desperately needs” the land for housing and business development. 
The railway company has owned the land well over 100 years, and Brownstein said CP could make a profit by selling. 
“I do believe that it’s a reality that could happen in the next five to 10 years with the proper plan,” the mayor said in an interview with the Montreal Gazette, adding developments similar to the future Quinze40 shopping complex in Town of Mount Royal and a residential redevelopment of the former Blue Bonnets racetrack on Décarie Blvd. in the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough could increase the value of the rail yard land.

Brownstein, who has been in office since April, said during that time he has met with CP to discuss moving the train yard off island to Les Cèdres near Vaudreuil, and that the company wouldn’t be opposed to the idea as long as a reasonable development project were proposed. Brownstein said CP could make a financial gain by selling the land and relocating. 
But the Coalition for the Relocation of the St-Luc Rail Yards — a non-profit organization led by a former mayor of Côte-St-Luc and former MNA for D’Arcy-McGee, Robert Libman — says city hall isn’t doing enough, “and this is why citizens felt the need to create something to make it happen.”
“(The rail yards) are located at the geographic epicentre of the island of Montreal,” said Libman, an architect and real estate lobbyist. “It’s somewhat of an obstacle to economic development.”
If train operations were moved off the island, Libman said, Côte-St-Luc would find itself with 2.04 million square metres (though the city estimated it at 1.6 million square metres) of land in a prime location, which he valued at least $1 billion. Libman, who now runs Libcorp, an urban-planning consulting firm, said he has no intention of becoming personally involved in developing the land.
“The even number I used was based on the relative value of residential land in that area, which about $50 a square foot,” he said in an interview.
The city said it couldn’t confirm the land’s potential value. Potential developers would buy the land directly from CP.  
“Côte-St-Luc has right now the second-highest tax rate on the island,” Libman said. “And one way to expand Côte-St-Luc’s tax base would be to allow the rail yards to leave.”
Libman’s coalition has asked a class of graduate students at McGill University’s School of Urban Planning to come up with a redevelopment plan and feasibility study for moving the yards, including possible decontamination. In the meantime, the coalition sent a letter to CP Rail in mid-July to present its vision. CP hasn’t responded yet, Libman said. 
***

The CP rail yard in Côte-St-Luc is one of largest in Canada, linking Eastern Canada to the West and the United States. A variety of products, including wood, chemicals, plastic, metals, minerals, consumer products and oil pass through the yards, which also border St-Laurent, Lachine and the CN-owned Taschereau yards. 
Since the Lac-Mégantic disaster of 2013, which saw 47 people killed after a runaway oil train jumped the tracks and blew up in the centre of town, several cities have expressed concern about hazardous materials being shipped through their territories by rail. 
Libman’s group call the rail yards in Côte-St-Luc “a threat to safety and security” because of the dangerous elements that are handled there.
Mauricio Guitta lives on Wentworth Ave. close to the freight cars. He considers the move a welcome proposal. 
“My friend … he (lives) right in front of the trains. The whole house shakes and the lights shake and everything,” he said.
Still, not everyone in the neighbourhood agrees.
Yao Liu said he’d never heard of the idea and would rather keep the yards because they block off traffic and provide security to the family-friendly area.
“We don’t have a lot of traffic on our side,” he said. “Even in summertime when I open the windows, I hear nothing.”
The city’s communications manager, Darryl Levine, said the city would work with developers by re-zoning parts of the new district for both residential and commercial buildings. He added that Côte-St-Luc hopes property taxes from new business and homeowners would make up for losing revenue from CP’s property taxes CP.
As well, Levine said, the rail yards have for years stalled progress on a plan to connect Cavendish Blvd. from Côte St-Luc to St-Laurent.
“You have to build an overpass to go over all the tracks that are in the CP rail yard and you may also have to build an underpass beneath some of them and that’s hugely expensive,” Levine said. “It’s an important missing link in the road network.”
This summer, the city of Montreal put a reserve on a parcel of land adjacent to the yards necessary to build the missing link of Cavendish Blvd. and allay traffic woes in the area.
Yet the city would encourage potential developers to create a neighbourhood built around people rather than around cars, Levine said.
***
CP Rail would not confirm or deny holding relocation talks with Brownstein, but emailed The Montreal Gazette a pamphlet of its relocation policy, which describes the moving of rail lines out of a city as a “complex and serious issue,” requiring an extensive review to “determine the impact to customer service and the full cost to all stakeholders, which will be significant.”
Three Canadian prairie cities that are among the fastest growing metro centres in the country are similarly eyeing such spaces for development.
Regina is working on plans to redevelop the site of a former CP rail yard located in the heart of the city. Saskatoon is considering the possibility of relocating its rail yard. And the Manitoba provincial government even hired former Quebec premier Jean Charest to head a task force to analyze rail yard relocation efforts in Winnipeg. 
smichaud@postmedia.com
Twitter.com/shaun_mic

City of Côte-St-Luc lobbies Canadian Pacific to move its rail yards off island

Language rights contrarians miss the point

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By Joel Goldenberg

The Suburban

The longstanding and very successful campaign by Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss and Côte St. Luc councillor Ruth Kovac, along with activist Murray Levine and Côte St. Luc councillor Glenn Nashen, to ensure anglophone Montrealers are treated with respect has garnered a lot of support. So have recent previous battles against the Payette Plan and Bill 14 led by this paper, it editor Beryl Wajsman and organizations like CRITIQ.
Staviss, Kovac and their cohorts are all lobbying companies and government institutions who deal with communities that have significant or majority anglophone populations to provide services in English as well as French, all in conformity with Quebec’s language laws.
The successes have included Subway, the Montreal fire department’s website; Westmount in changing their unilingual French parking signs (however slowly), Costco, Second Cup, Cineplex, Toys R Us, Winners, and McDonald’s. The website providing information on the Turcot reconstruction was also bilingualized, after we revealed that it was French-only and thanks to lobbying by D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum.
Those who are campaigning for respect have pretty modest goals. None are calling for the repealing of Bill 101, which would be a political scalding and burnt potato —at the very least— in this province.
And yet, judging by some reactions I’ve heard on radio, and seen on social media in reaction to the campaign in general, and most recently Levine’s lobbying for Westmount to be repaid, with interest, for the OQLF’s “error” in forcing Westmount to unilingualize their parking signs 20 years ago for $30,000, the negative consensus reactions seem to be:
“Learn French” or, to paraphrase others, “don’t rock the boat.”
And this is from some anglophones and allophones. Some seem infected with the same political correctness of the so-called anglo “lamb lobby” of 20 years ago, who fretted about francophone press reaction to any quest for rights. Others are self-proclaimed protectors of the French fact in Quebec. Another group is the younger “hipper than thou” crowd who were in diapers when the hard fought battles to ensure language rights were taken to the Supreme Court, and even the United Nations.
They all miss the point, from several kilometres away. Yes, even the most unilingual of Montrealers knows that “stationnement” means parking, “Lundi” means “Monday” and “poulet” means “chicken.”
But when stores or provincial government institutions dealing with residents in areas like Côte St. Luc, Westmount, Hampstead, Montreal West, and even the the non-officially bilingual NDG and St. Laurent, do so only in French, it’s a huge insult and makes absolutely no sense. (Thankfully, the latter two boroughs do provide many services in English.)
Propose offering service and signage in French only to Côte St. Luc, Hampstead and Montreal West council, and prepare to be laughed out of the room.
And it’s not even that easy for some cities to be officially recognized as bilingual. At the time of the mergers in the early 2000s, the PQ government changed the rules. Instead of the language most used by residents, the criteria became mother tongue. This prevented the Côte des Neiges-NDG borough from having the possibility of being designated bilingual.
I remember when it was pointed out at the time, on several occasions, that someone like CJAD host Tommy Schnurmacher, who was born in Hungary, would not be recognized as anglophone for the purposes of a city’s bilingualism designation. One of many absurdities we experience here.
And yet, there are some out there who are utterly dismissive of even the most modest attempts at ensuring the rights of anglophones.
Learn French? What about learning respect and the meaning of principle?
joel@thesuburban.com

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