Montreal city council has approved plans to build a new office building atop the longstanding The Bay store in downtown Montreal.
The over 130-year-old red brick building could soon look a lot different as plans for a proposed 25-storey glass office space on its roof have gotten the first seal of approval.
“The building with this plan becomes something else,” city councillor Marvin Rotrand said.
With fond memories of the Ste-Catherine street building, Rotrand was the sole voice in council voicing his opinion on the project.
“The building becomes a glass tower — the drawings leave me cold.”
While Rotrand voiced his concern with the new look, he also questioned if a new office building in the downtown area is needed, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic, where most office spaces sit empty.
“We’re not Hong Kong. We’re not even Toronto. I’m not sure our appetite meets our power of attraction,” Rotrand said.
That is something commercial real estate agency Colliers’ vice-president, Joe Rullier, agrees with at the moment.
“The market is static, there is a bit of disconnection between purchasers and vendors,” Rullier said.
However, he expects to see an uptick in the market with news of vaccination campaigns getting underway across the province.
That optimism is also met with uncertainty as it is still unknown how the office world will look post-pandemic.
“It will be interesting to see the future,” Rullier said.
The uncertainty is palpable after a recent report done by the Urban Development Institute and Montréal Centre-Ville found 70 per cent of office workers were working from home for more than three days a week.
It’s a trend that most downtown employees would like to continue even post-pandemic.
Those figures paired with 12.4 per cent vacancy rates for downtown office buildings during 2020 prove that there could be a new normal for office work.
Robert Beaudry, the Montreal executive committee responsible for real estate, said the new proposed building is a unique project that will not have difficulty finding tenants.
Rullier says a brand new building is always something purchasers are looking for.
“I don’t think the market has that much absorption, but they will be able to attract companies because of the efficiency of the building and its location.”
Rotrand says there is lots of ground to cover between now and a brand new building, adding that public consultations will be needed before official plans are finalized.
The Hudson Bay Company did not comment.