I was recently invited to take a tour of the latest development on Nuns Island. Nuns Island is a small island located near Downtown Montreal.
I have a number of clients in the real estate industry for which I do web design, online marketing, and photography. That said, I typically don’t go out of my way to promote any businesses related to real estate unless I’m really into it (or its required for work). The new neighbourhood on Nuns Island known as Quartier Pointe-Nord (Northern Point Quarter), is one such case of the former.
The neighbourhood itself consists of several condo buildings, shoreline access to the St. Lawrence River, and retail stores. A chunk of the area is still being developed.
Here’s the good and bad of what I discovered during my personalized, media-only tour.
An Urban Village
One objective of the Quartier Pointe-Nord development was to take a piece of undeveloped land and attempt to create a European-like feel that is welcoming and close-knit. The idea is that street life makes a community, even one dominated by tall condo buildings. Nuns Island doesn’t have a Monkland Village type of area which created an opportunity for the developers to attempt to bring in that style of neighbourhood.
From my visit, I can say that they’ve succeeded at creating a small, but walkable neighbourhood. So much so, in fact that they used the science behind community design in their approach. That’s something I really appreciate and can relate to. I feel as though so many important buildings in Montreal that have been constructed over the last 10-15 years have been ugly as hell, with poor usability no less, leading to a failing grade by my standards. New buildings and communities shouldn’t stress people out. They also shouldn’t make visitors stop and wonder why something built in modern times has such a poor user experience.
With that said, I was impressed to hear that they measured the width of the streets between buildings so as not to feel claustrophobic. The heights of the buildings is designed to be an ideal walking environment.
I believe that with the rapid construction of the many condo skyscrapers in Downtown Montreal that is currently going on, streets such as Rene Levesque are becoming like tunnels, transforming the formerly somewhat airy atmosphere of the nearby streets toward a boxed-in feeling.
No Large Chain Stores
I was surprised to hear that the usual suspects weren’t allowed to set up shop in the Quartier Pointe-Nord development. You aren’t going to find Subway Restaurants (awww… I love Subway!), Baton Rouge (good… I’m not a fan ha ha!), or other giant chain eateries in this ‘hood.
The development is trying to bring in smaller businesses who they believe will be a better fit for the community. That message is not lost on Francine Brule or Serge Bruneau, the owners of Les Enfants Terribles restaurant that’s located at the base of one of the condo buildings. I ate breakfast at this, their third location.
The Perks of the St. Lawrence
I’ve travelled to many countries at different times of the year and believe that Montreal weather in the summer is hard to beat. For that reason alone, having a condo or living right by the water is a major perk. It’s peculiar because so many people who live in Montreal tend to forget that we’re even on an island.
While vacations to the Caribbean or areas surrounding Montreal (e.g., Laurentians and Eastern Townships) give people the opportunity to experience beaches and water sports, relatively few Montrealers think about water activities locally. That said, this new development has shoreline access, including kayaks and stand-up paddle boards available for use.
I visited during a beautiful summer day but I wonder if the wind will make it feel colder during the winter months.
How much is a condo on Nuns Island?
It’s no secret that Montreal’s condo market is getting saturated. With the towers going up downtown, Griffintown developments, and smaller condo buildings going up on formerly empty lots around the city, how does Nuns Island compare? There are several condo buildings, including two towers called “Evolo” (with two more of these towers in the planning stages).
It was 1,070 square feet and cost $510,000.
I visited a demo condo which was in a 24-floor tower. It was 1,070 square feet and cost $510,000. In general, real estate agents expect to negotiate a lower price for their clients but you can’t do that here if you’re a first time buyer. The reason is that by not lowering the condo prices, it protects the first buyers. If someone buys a condo and wants to sell at a loss later on, that’s their prerogative.
I was assured that Quartier Pointe-Nord condos cost less per square foot than Griffintown, on average.
The heating is geothermal which should lower heating costs in the winter. It costs much more to heat than to cool so that could save buyers money in the long run.
How do you create a community?
One way to create a community is to get people out of their homes and interacting with other locals. When a neighbourhood is designed to encourage individuals to talk to their neighbours, especially in today’s phone-addicted society, that’s good planning.
Creating a sense of place with spaces that help people have transformative experiences is one of the community objectives. My tour was given by one of the project’s main designers, Ilan Gewurz. He insisted that people who live here will walk down the street and feel good without knowing why, thanks to good urban planning.
The bakery has free wireless access and a table for people to meet up and work. There’s the requisite hair salon, Msalon, which Citynet Magazine contributor Gabrielle Dumais wrote about from our visit there.
My uncle used to live on Nuns Island (the other side, not this new area) and when he’d walk his dog, I realized just how many there were in the area. Quartier Pointe-Nord has a water fountain meant for dogs which will keep people outside longer on hot days.
…this could become one of the most desired waterfront neighbourhoods in Montreal…
I was told that there’s an Atwater-style market that was coming soon.
There are around 1,000 people living in the neighbourhood. That number will obviously grow as the additional condos are built.
Taken together, this could become one of the most desired waterfront neighbourhoods in Montreal. It’s difficult for me to say that it’s the “best” one because it’s not complete yet. Perhaps a future visit would be in order for that reason alone.
A Green Development
I had a lot of exposure to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification when one of my clients, PEAU Montreal, listed among the city’s most notable medical spas and laser centres became the first LEED certified spa in Montreal. While many “green certifications” are sketchy, LEED certification is a trusted accreditation.
Quartier Pointe-Nord is considered to be one of the highest forms of environmentally- friendly construction. These condos have been LEED ND (New Development) certified. The idea here is that the green high rises are sustainable and the neighbourhood is expected to follow suit.
Should you live here?
If areas like Griffintown are on your radar but you’re in search of a more unique community atmosphere, the Quartier Pointe-Nord neighbourhood should be seriously considered. There appears to be a lot of young urban professional moving to this part of Montreal. With locals leaning toward a more hip lifestyle, this could be a great place to live.