Montreal Developer Lands Ciele Athletics’ 1st Retail Store: Interview

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Montreal boutique developer MTRPL has landed Ciele Athletics, with its first retail location, at the real estate company’s key site at 1620 Notre Dame Ouest.

Bryan Spatzner, co-founder of MTRPL, said the location was one of the company’s largest and most recent projects at 50,000 square feet. The building was owned by the Salvation Army which sold the building to MTRPL about two and a half years ago. 

Bryan Spatzner

“They had owned it since 1945. They bought it from Northern Electric . . . which built this property in 1915. And so the Salvation Army had owned it and when we bought it they had their retail operation on the ground floor but the rest of the building, essentially 40,000 square feet, was being used as a storage space and just as a repository for everything they hadn’t sold,” said Spatzner. 

“So we repositioned the asset as commercial loft office upstairs where we’re 100 per cent leased and the last piece of the puzzle was the ground floor space. The Salvation Army left because they felt the area no longer had enough capacity for their product, for their offering. We were unable to re-sign them. They decided they wanted to get out of the neighbourhood as it gentrified and we were left with 10,000 square feet on the ground floor of retail to lease.

“The stars really aligned on this one. It’s a great deal. They’re a great brand to be associated with both at MTRPL and at the property 1620 NDO.”

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Image: Ciele Athletics

He said 10,000 square feet of urban streetfront isn’t the easiest nut to crack these days and not the most popular size space even before COVID for urban retail.

“And going into COVID we entered a bit of a leasing winter so to speak for retail as everybody was really forced to be closed. Admittingly, this is the longest we’ve sat on any empty space on the ground floor. It was vacant for about two years but we finally struck gold with Ciele Athletics who in my mind is almost like lululemon is to yoga, Ciele is to running in so far as their lifestyle brand. It’s high-performance product. Originally I think their marquee product was their headwear. They’ve branched since into all different types of running attire,” said Spatzner.

“You only have to go on the Lachine Canal, which is a stone’s throw from our site, to see just about every single jogger, biker, everybody wearing a Ciele Athletics hat. Even in my travels I’ve seen them all over the place – in kitchens, anywhere where people are being active you can find a Ciele hat.

“So with a little bit of luck and a hell of a lot of persistence we managed to strike a deal with Ciele for their flagship retail, office HQ and experiential retail with a running room to take the full 10,000 square feet on the ground floor. We’re very excited. They’re a great Montreal brand and success story. It really is a Cinderella fit in so far as it’s going to be a multi-use space. They’re a fast growing company and it’s just a great image for them and the building to be on Notre Dame in the heart of Montreal but at the same time less than a minute’s walk from the Lachine Canal for an athletic brand.”

Overall, Spatzner said MTRPL has been very lucky with no retail tenants going under over the last year or so of the pandemic, except for one tenant that was on thin ice before COVID started. It closed unrelated to the retail crisis started by the pandemic.

“As landlords we were of the conviction that we are in all of this together. It is a global issue so any tenant that qualified for the (federal rent subsidies) we gladly participated in that government program . . . That being said, I would say March 2020 when it started certainly retail leasing froze up but we’ve since over the last quarter or two have seen a real uptick in leasing velocity and we’ve been signing leases and continuing to acquire new projects,” he said.

The company had also purchased a ‘white elephant’ building along the busy Saint Denis Street in Montreal with plans to revitalize it into unique retail and housing space to go along with the renewal of a street which had fallen into decay in recent years.

The building at the southwest corner of Rachel and Saint Denis was originally a bank in the 1920s and Mexx’s flagship store for 17 years before its demise. The building had been vacant and vandalized for about five years before MTRPL bought it.

Image: Ciele athletics

“It’s fully finished. The SAQ (liquor store) is on the corner. It’s in my opinion the most beautiful SAQ in the city. We did 10 AirBnB apartments upstairs that are fully net leased to an AirBnB operator who is doing very, very well as revenge tourism has been coming back with a vengeance in a positive sense,” said Spatzner.

“And we have one small restaurant called La Petite Dinette that took the last little piece of retail on the ground floor there. They did a beautiful build out kind of Miami Vice retro hot pinks and teals and like an Asian fusion product.”

MTRPL was founded in 2016 as a real estate company concentrating on retail centric mixed-use urban development. It specializes in the investment, development, and management of mixed-use assets.

“Our investment philosophy begins with transit-oriented development along retail corridors in urban areas. We search for assets in high density neighbourhoods, with abundant foot traffic and an authentic sense of place,” says MTRPL on its website.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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