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

Parkhaven dirt pile to be carted away

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Dirt pile on Parkhaven at the corner of Trinity

Dirt pile on Parkhaven at the corner of Trinity

The unsightly pile of dirt at the construction site of the Parkhaven Courtyard townhouse project will finally be on its way. This eyesore was trucked over from the construction site on The Avenue many months ago much to the dismay of residents along the truck route that had to endure dirty streets and local residents on Parkhaven and Trinity avenues who’ve put up with the mess all summer long. Notwithstanding the half-hearted attempt to cover up the pile with ineffective strands of plastic and constant street washing nearby residents have endured dirty roads, windows and lawns from the constant dust.

While the dump on Parkhaven is legal in that the developer owns both construction sites, that is, on The Avenue and on Parkhaven, residents will be pleased to know that the city has received assurances that the pile will soon be carted back to The Avenue to fill in the excavation that has been prepped for the six-story building that is slowly proceeding.

Construction on The Avenue proceeds (Oct. 1, 2016)

Construction on The Avenue proceeds (Oct. 1, 2016)

Several new residents have begun moving into the Parkhaven Courtyards, a lovely project on the site of the former Griffith-McConnell Residence. This project has targeted young couples given its proximity to the Aquatic and Community Centre and the former Wagar High School (that the EMSB has twice hinted at converting back into a mainstream high school). Located in District 6, which I represent, I am looking forward to meeting my new constituents.

Meanwhile, the building across from the Cavendish Mall will hopefully soon be green-lighted for the next phase of construction. That project will see ground level retail businesses such as a cafe or restaurant with outdoor seating space out front with apartments located on the upper floors. The concept envisioned is to create a lively indoor and outdoor retail-dining experience along The Avenue, just steps away from City Hall and the public library, the Mall, new homes and several parks.

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

CP ‘willing and interested’ to move St. Luc yards from CSL: Brownstein

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By Joel Goldenberg

The Suburban
Côte St. Luc mayor Mitchell Brownstein met very recently met with Canadian Pacific vice-president Mark Wallace to discuss the possibility of the railway moving the St. Luc yards, located in Côte St. Luc, off the island.
Brownstein was responding to council regular Irving Itman, who asked for information on his “favourite subject,” the long-awaited Cavendish Blvd. extension betwen Côte St. Luc and St. Laurent.
Brownstein met with Wallace, who is based in Ottawa, on July 8.
“Wallace came to see me, because he read in the media what was going on with respect to discussions between me and others about moving the yards,” the mayor said at the July 11 council meeting. “And he reiterated the fact that they’re willing to move the yards. They’re waiting for a project to come forward and there’s no need, in his opinion, for there to be an outcry from the public, because that’s not what is going to make it happen. What’s going to make it happen is the proper development proposal, and they’re completely ready and willing at this time, because they have land in Vaudreuil, to consider moving the yards.”
“What’s required to move the yards is a serious development plan that’s very financially interesting for CP Rail.”
Brownstein said Wallace asked him to “speak out, and let it be known that they’re willing and interested” to move the yards.
“He doesn’t need to know how many people in Côte St. Luc would want it, because he knows 34,000 people in Côte St. Luc would want it. It’s just a matter of the proper plan being presented.”
Brownstein and Wallace also discussed the Cavendish extension per se.
“He said that CP is in discussions with Montreal about [the city] purchasing CP land, and he will present his offer back to the Montreal agglomeration.”
Brownstein said he then spoke to Montreal executive committee chairman Pierre Desrochers about his meeting with Wallace.
“Desrochers assured me he’s looking forward to hearing back from CP, and that he will always be available to update me on the progress between CP and the City of Montreal. Desrochers told me he’s working with the provincial government on the other issues of funding.”
Brownstein vowed to ensure that all the parties involved in the extension issue keep talking to each other.
joel@thesuburban.com

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