Montreal’s Gay Village Ready for Retail Revival Amid New Area Developments: Developer

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Montreal boutique developer MTRPL has a knack of finding unique but under-utilized or unused, buildings in high traffic areas and turning them into gems that not only fit into their neighbourhoods but draw people to those areas.

The latest project is a historic bank property from the 1920s located on Sainte Catherine E in the heart of Gay Village, said Bryan Spatzner Co-Founder of MTRPL.

“It’s a primary commercial artery that is in need of some urban revitalization, which we plan to be a big part of. The area has a tremendous amount of master planned projects going on. The city of Montreal has coined the area the Quartier des Faubourgs.

“We’ve certainly been busy and Gay Village, Sainte Catherine Street is like a new area we’ve identified as a target.”


Spatzner said the Gay Village is a historic Montreal neighbourhood and the street is one of Montreal’s most famous. Sainte Catherine West attracts some of the most expensive rents in Montreal, let alone in all of Canada for retail – mostly high-end boutiques, national and international retailers.

The Gay Village area is to the east of that and is home to L’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and the Jacques Cartier Bridge which is emblematic of Montreal engineering and infrastructure.

The area has a ton of development going on including Esplanade Cartier with about 2,000 residential units and two office towers; Quartier des lumières which is a mixed-use, multi-phase project; and a huge master-planned development on the old Molson Brewery site. 

“So a bunch of huge, huge master planned projects going on in the area. The area is also a historic area. It’s serviced by Montreal’s metro system. Depending on where you start there’s roughly three or four Metro stations servicing the area. The area is well-serviced by transit and of course you’ve got the Jacques Cartier bridge bringing people in from the South Shore that pops out right in the neighborhood,” said Spatzner.

“So we just feel the neighbourhood is ripe for revitalization, for renewal. Like many of these historic neighbourhoods, well into transition. One could say that the area got a little bit rusty and got a little bit of a reputation for being a little bit more rough. But we just feel there’s so much positive economic development in the area as well as just the proximity to downtown, the proximity to Montreal’s core. It really is downtown East.

“All the ingredients are already there so it really is a bit of a question mark why it’s taken so long for the area to come to its full potential. We feel the whole area is in a state of effervescence and we’re just trying to be a small part in it doing what we specialize in best, which is repositioning older buildings that are either under leased or under managed, giving them a new lease on life and this site is no different.”

The building was originally built by the District and Savings Bank which later was purchased by the Laurentian Bank. In the early 2000s, Laurentian divested most of its real estate. The building is 18,000 square feet with two upper floors fully leased out to the Quebec government. 

“There’s about 6,000 square feet of vacant space on the ground floor which is where we create the value and where we’re looking for a tenant. It’s a beautiful space,” said Spatzner, adding it has coffered ceilings, a marble floor, intricate woodwork throughout, gold leaf on the ceiling, with about 15-foot high ceilings, arched windows.

It’s at the corner at Saint-Timothée Street right next to the Metro Station.

Image: MTRPL
Image: MTRPL

MTRPL purchased the building about three months ago. The space on the ground level has been vacant for several years.

“It’s not going to be your standard retailer. It’s really going to take either someone in food and beverage, someone who is looking for a boutique feel and a boutique location, albeit in an up and coming area. We’re also directly adjacent, on the corner across the street from us, is the Olympia Theatre which is also a historic theatre,” said Spatzner. “Somebody who could make use of the proximity to the theatre would also be fantastic.

“Sainte Catherine Street famously starting about 10 years ago started shutting down the entire street and pedestrianizing it over the summer months and they’ve invited artists who have designed different type of canopies, colourful balls, different type of very cool urban design art projects that really create a fantastic feeling for the street during the summer months and it is quite something when the whole street is shut down to traffic. It’s become a tourist destination, also a great walking street – similar to what they did with Mount Royal and St. Lawrence over the last few years.”

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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