Verdun, the new Plateau? | The duty

Gentrification is accelerating in Verdun, to the point that commercial rents on Wellington Street have joined those of Plateau-Mont-Royal and residential rents are getting closer and closer.

“I don’t know what to do,” says tattoo artist Erika Doyon in her premises on rue Verdun, about 400 meters from the main artery of the district.

Gabby and Leia, her American bullies, sleep in a corner of her cozy workshop, called Studio Artease. However, she believes that she will have to leave the premises in the fall, because she suspects that her landlord will want to substantially increase her rent. Her neighbor, who has the same landlord, renewed her lease for five years with an increase of around 25% in her rent.

“Last year was the end of my five-year lease. I looked a lot elsewhere in the neighborhood and found nothing, nothing, that made any sense. These are crazy prices,” said the woman who was finally able to renew her lease until next October.

She also points out that the space she occupied until 2018 on Wellington Street is currently listed for rent at $6,800 plus taxes per month, whereas at the time she was paying $5,000 per month, taxes included. This is the location occupied by the Kwizinn restaurant, which will soon move to Old Montreal.

On the Centris real estate platform, several commercial premises on or near Wellington Street are displayed at prices similar to those of the commercial streets of Plateau-Mont-Royal, such as Avenue du Mont-Royal and Rue Saint- Denis, or between $30 and $45 per square foot per year before taxes.

“Indeed, we are seeing that the rates per square foot are catching up, if not exceeding, the rates on the Plateau,” reports Julien Marois, director and chief operating officer of the real estate brokerage firm NAI Terramont Commercial. Other arteries, such as Laurier Avenue or those in the city center, are still more expensive.

The craze for Verdun, increasingly popular with wealthy residents as well as tourists, is particularly to blame. Mr. Marois also points out that there are many more streets and commercial buildings on the Plateau-Mont-Royal than in Verdun. The dynamics of supply and demand therefore work to the disadvantage of retail tenants on Wellington Street.

Replaced with strings

Many business owners fear speaking publicly about their rent, for fear of souring their relations with their landlord. It must be said that there are no rules governing increases in commercial rents and that nothing prevents an owner from evicting a tenant at the end of their lease. However, a retailer on Wellington Street told Dutywith frustration, that, according to his most recent lease, his rent will have doubled in five years compared to last year.

The owner of the Copette&Cie cheese factory, Cristel Henssen, does not need to renegotiate her lease for two years. However, she is saddened by the closure of businesses that had been established on Wellington Street for years. She believes that everything “degenerated” when the magazine Time Out elected the artery as being “the most cool in the world”, in 2022. “Before, we were all resident traders in the neighborhood. But there, the chains are setting up, and it’s not the same atmosphere,” laments the woman who established her business around fifteen years ago. A PFK notably grew at the intersection of rue de l’Église.

Julien Marois explains that established chains are considered by owners as “quality tenants” since they have stronger backs and find it easier to obtain financing. Franchises are more stable than independent restaurants, which tend to open and close frequently. “When the franchisee signs a lease, there are often guarantees from the franchisor,” he explains.

Residents in tears

As for residential rents, the latest survey by the Regroupement des logement committees et associations de tenants du Québec, published in June 2023, notes that the prices displayed on Kijiji in Verdun and in the South-West are close to those of Plateau-Mont- Royal. The prices of studios and three and a half would be even higher, while the largest apartments would be a little more expensive in the Plateau.

This inflation does not seem to be decreasing. The Verdun Citizens’ Action Committee (CACV) says it is seeing more than ever, during this period of lease renewal, abusive increases from residential owners.

“I just saw a notice of a $150 increase and I’m not even surprised anymore. I have even seen landlords who tried to double the rent,” reports Lyn O’Donnell, social worker and community organizer for CACV, which helps tenants assert their rights.

The latter is concerned about the situation. “It is worrying especially for families, the elderly, people without status, the most vulnerable people. I often have people in my office who cry or who have attempted suicide because they don’t see how to get out of this,” said O’Donnell, who is urging the government to implement rent controls.

The speaker believes that the commercial offer is changing towards “chic, more modern businesses, not necessarily affordable for everyone in the neighborhood”. However, this is only a symptom of the demographic changes caused by rising rents, she believes.

A repeating phenomenon

What is happening in Verdun is similar to what happened on the Plateau-Mont-Royal from the 1970s, believes Hélène Bélanger, professor in the Department of Urban and Tourism Studies at UQAM. According to her, the phenomena of commercial and population replacement feed each other. Residents of modest means are quietly being replaced by more educated citizens seeking affordable rents in a nice neighborhood.

“According to my first observations, during this first phase of commercial gentrification, neighborhood merchants will open fashionable boutiques for these new residents,” says Bélanger.

The new commercial offer contributes to the appeal of this district. Mme Bélanger notes that there is currently an acceleration of this transformation given the housing crisis plaguing Montreal. “A lot of owners see it as a source of quick profit. We organize ourselves in a more or less honest way to evict tenants and increase rents,” says the woman who is also a member of the Housing Research and Action Collective.

Commercial rents also continue to increase, to the point that one day, it is almost only the big chains that have the means to pay them. There is then a risk of homogenization of the offer.

Real estate expert Julien Marois believes that this commercial excitement will inevitably spread beyond Wellington Street, such as where Erika Doyon is located. Several entrepreneurs looking for more modest rents are already leaving Wellington Street for adjacent streets. However, the traffic on the popular artery does not always benefit merchants on other streets. “Last summer, it was so quiet that we had to start a GoFundMe campaign,” says Robyn Stroll, owner of Thésaurus Thérrarium, a tea room that aims to be inclusive and community-based. “People were staying in Wellington, which was heavily marketed and pedestrianized. They didn’t come this far. »

At this point, Hélène Bélanger even perceives that the transformation is preparing to spill over from Verdun to affect adjacent neighborhoods, such as LaSalle. Tattoo artist Erika Doyon fears having to move her business out of the neighborhood where she has lived for more than twenty years. Its business revenues are currently low, because products cost more, while customers limit their spending, stifled by the high cost of living. She points out that her personal budget is also very tight: “My rent here has just increased by $60 per month. »

To watch on video

source site-40