The existing brick structure was built by Northern Electric in 1915 and sold to The Salvation Army in 1948, before it was acquired by MTRPL in March for $12.1 million.
The property, now branded 1620 NDO, previously had a Salvation Army store on the main floor and some offices on the second floor, but the majority of its 50,000 square feet had been used for storage. MTRPL’s plan is to lease 10,000 square feet of retail space at grade, with 40,000 feet of brick-and-beam office space above that, topped with a 9,000-square-foot rooftop terrace.
“We’re by far the tallest building on the block, with unimpeded views of Mount Royal, the city skyline, the Jacques Cartier Bridge, Old Montreal and the Lachine Canal,” MTRPL’s Bryan Spatzner told RENX. Spatzner co-founded the company in 2016 with partner Richard Kertzer.
The acquisition in the Sud-Ouest area of the city also includes an adjacent 30,000-square-foot parcel of land. It contains smaller buildings MTRPL is looking to have rezoned for additional commercial and residential development.
MTRPL history and operations
Spatzner received an architecture degree from McGill University, took real estate development courses at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a master’s degree in real estate and the built environment from Harvard University, with a heavy focus on financing.
Kertzer previously worked for Developpement Metro, which specializes in developing, owning and managing industrial, commercial and residential properties.
“When Richard and I joined forces, it was a great combination of complementary skill sets,” said Spatzner. “We’re both young guys who are passionate about real estate.”
MTRPL is a turnkey company that sources deals, raises capital, obtains financing, handles leasing, does ground-up development and repositions underleased and/or undermanaged properties to their highest and best use.
It raises capital from high-net-worth individuals on a project-by-project basis and takes construction financing from major banks.
MTRPL development strategy
MTRPL’s focus is on properties in retail corridors in up-and-coming, high-density areas near the downtown core — including Griffintown, Le Sud-Ouest, Verdun, Plateau and Notre-Dame-de-Grace. It gravitates toward transit-oriented, mixed-use development.
“The common denominator is that we always have a strong retail component, which is going against the grain a little bit,” said Spatzner. He feels historic commercial arteries in Montreal are experiencing a renaissance and offer opportunities because other companies are shying away from retail.
MTRPL properties have a mix of local, provincial and national retail and commercial tenants, and Spatzner said there are very few vacancies.
MTRPL’s first deal was the 2016 acquisition of an empty 15,000-square-foot retail building at 3939 Wellington St. in Verdun, now called Biggy Lofts.
It just waived conditions for its 10th project, an empty 11,000-square-foot building at the corner of Saint Denis and Rachel Streets that was a bank in the early 1900s. It will include retail on the ground floor and apartments on the second floor.
MTRPL active in several sectors
MTRPL is involved in the condominium, purpose-built rental, office, hospitality and retail asset classes. Acquisitions have ranged in value from $2 million to $12.1 million.
“We’re hitting the sweet spot in terms of deal size and complexity,” said Spatzner. “There are certainly deals that are too small for the bigger guys, but require a little more expertise and capital than the little guys can bite on.”
Spatzner said he, Kartzer and their small but growing team “like to think that we know where there’s still value to be had.” MTRPL doesn’t do cap rate plays and doesn’t buy anything stabilized, he added.
“With every project we have, there’s a good amount of risk involved, no doubt, but with the risk hopefully comes the reward. We think all of our projects have significant upside and real potential for value creation, but it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of hounding people.”
Rental apartments preferred over condos
MTRPL’s lone condo project, the 25-unit Charlevoix Lofts in Pointe Saint Charles, sold out and was successful. However, Spatzner said the company won’t do another because of the major impact rising construction costs have on the sector.
“With a rental project your revenue isn’t fixed, so you’re taking a risk with the market, but generally speaking construction costs are going to go up if the market’s hot. Rental rates are also going to go up if the market’s hot. With a condo project, your revenues are kind of fixed.”
MTRPL is involved with a 32-unit apartment in Plateau, where Spatzner said construction costs have gone up, but rents have skyrocketed.
Although mainly a condo project, MTRPL did keep five residential rental units and a retail component at Charlevoix Lofts.
Aside from the Charlevoix Lofts condo units, the only property MTRPL has sold is a piece of land in Sorel-Tracy which it acquired for a good price, then rezoned to increase its value.