Some of the small businesses that gave Montreal’s Mile End its artsy reputation feel they are being forced out of the neighbourhood.
De Gaulle Helou has been a baker for 30 years. In 2007, he opened his own pastry shop on Saint-Viateur Street.
His 10-year lease is now up, but Shiller Lavy — the major Montreal real estate company that bought the building in 2015 — is increasing the rent from $1,950 to $6,500. They are also asking him to invest nearly $50,000 into the property for renovations.
“It’s immoral, it’s really immoral. All that counts for them is money,” Helou said.
He’s not alone.
Shiller Lavy has been buying several properties all over the Plateau Mont-Royal and Mile End, including the Creperie right next to Helou’s bakery and Mile End’s beloved Cagibi Café on the corner of Saint-Laurent street and Saint-Viateur Street.
Global News contacted the real estate giant, but they refused to comment.
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Marie Plourde, a city councilor for the Mile End area, says the concentration of ownership is a problem.
“We have to help the merchants right now,” Plourde said, “especially the independent merchants who don’t have the big financial backup to get them go through those incredible raises.”
“It’s like the far west right now,” she added.
Helou decided to relocate his business to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieux, South of the island — albeit reluctantly.
His entire life is in Mile End, he said, including his kids, who normally spend their lunch break with him at the bakery.
There is currently no law in place to regulate the price tag landlords put on commercial buildings, according to real estate attorney Sylvan Schneider.
“If the lease ends, the commercial landlords have the right to increase the rent to the amount they want,” he said.
Plourde says the city does not have the legislative power to control commercial rents, but she hopes the Quebec government will act soon.
The city is launching a commission on economic and urban development in September, where they will analyse the situation and discuss possible solutions.
By then, even more store owners might go out of business.