St. Henri is discovering a downside to the up-and-coming.
A commercial stretch in the Southwest borough neighbourhood is blossoming. Notre Dame St. W in particular is now dotted with trendy restaurants and some fashionable boutiques.
Some smaller local business owners, however, say the new higher rents are pushing them out.
Gentrification is nothing new to Montreal. Over the decades, in the Plateau, on Monkland Ave., the urban phenomenon has brought new life to neighbourhoods. As property evaluations increase, however, so do the taxes and the rents.
Cafe Saint-Henri has been on Notre Dame and Bourget St. for five years, and in that time, the neighbourhood has become extremely popular.
The café’s owner Jean-Francois Leduc said he has a loyal clientele and would like to stay in the area.
“I was one of the first that came here, invested massively in this specific location but I'm also one of the first that's going to have to move out for the exact same reason,” said Leduc. “Rents were affordable. Rents have tripled; they’re not affordable anymore.”
Leduc said in 2010, his base rent was $21,600 per year on a five-year lease. This year, a new five-year lease was set at an average of $59,500 per year, not including small annual increases.
“I would have wished for sure to have an agreement with the landlord, although I understand that he is running a business as well,” he said.
Instead, Leduc signed a one-year lease and is looking for a new location.
Building owner Marc Moore said he'd like his good tenant to stay at the location, but the café occupies a prime corner in an area that's becoming known as ‘restaurant alley.’ The higher rent he's charging reflects the current market, he said.
Moore, who bought the building and two other adjoining buildings about 25 years ago, has put more than $1 million into renovating them. Built in 1880, the building was owned by the Decarie family until Moore purchased it.
Moore said these days, his taxes are skyrocketing. In 2002, for the two buildings, he paid a total of $6870 in municipal taxes. In 2015, he paid 28,351 – in increase of 413 per cent over 13 years.
The owner did offer Leduc a discount on the new lease, but Leduc said the small discount did not make a dent in an overall rental fee.
Southwest borough Mayor Benoit Dorais told CTV Montreal that he feels triple the rent is unacceptable.
Projet Montreal city councillor Craig Sauve wants to protect local merchants.
“What we don't want is to just be invaded by chains that can pay more because then we lose the character of our commercial streets,” he said.
Sauve would like to see some regulation of commercial rents, but concedes it's a complex issue.
“When there is a boom in the neighbourhood, that raises the taxes for everybody. That raises rents, residentially and commercially so maybe we have to review the revenue stream for the city as well. It's an urban problem,” said Sauve.
In the meantime, concern is spreading. Café Rose de Lima owner Kevin Thomas said he’s worried.
“St. Henri cafe's our neighbour and we hear the situation there, so it's making us nervous,” he said.