The listing: 5265 Ave. De Gaspé, apt. 203, Montreal
Asking Price: $895,000
Taxes: $4,672 (Municipal, 2020); $765 (School, 2019)
Monthly maintenance fees: $486
Size: 1,800 square feet
Agents: Jeff Lee and Marie-Claude Bergeron, Engel & Völkers Montréal
Selling a high-end loft in the entrepreneurial hotbed of Montreal’s Mile End should be as easy as falling off a log. And in any other market it would be, but it’s not a done deal yet and the timing has Jeff Lee of Engel & Völkers worrying over whether this is the last transaction he’ll record in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic crashes into every sector of the economy.
“The deals we’re securing right now are probably our money for the spring into the summer,” he said. The hope is the virus will be under control in the fall. Until then, he’ll sweat even sure bets such as the 1,800-square-foot loft that is one of only 31 apartments at Lofts de Gaspé, a four-storey former textile factory converted to housing about eight years ago.
When the sellers, Francis Gosselin and Gabrielle Madé, moved here three years ago it was love at first sight. “We weren’t really looking for a place … we visited only this one, and made an offer the same day,” said Mr. Gosselin, an economist and consultant who was working in Mile End at the time.
“We travel quite a lot for work and we think it’s one of the coolest places to live. It’s mostly offices for technology, [video game giant] Ubisoft has more than 3,000 workers on the street. It’s the No. 1 street for guys walking around in T-shirts with six-digit salaries,” Mr. Gosselin said. “The zone where it’s residential has artists and small boutiques, there are not any brands in the neighbourhood: not one McDonald’s or Tim’s. Only places like Café Olimpico that are all pretending to be the best at their craft. It’s a short walk to St. Viateur or Fairmont [famed rival Montreal bagel shops] depending on which church you pray to.”
“Mile End has been raging for years now,” Mr. Lee said. “Montreal is still the best kept secret in North America: it’s a real city, but still very cheap to live in.”
The house today
The loft is essentially a long rectangle that has been subdivided at into as few separate spaces as possible. From the door you can see in a straight line to the windows at the opposite end that fills the space with light, bouncing off the polished concrete floor.
Closest to the door are storage closets and the laundry space, but just beyond that is a vast kitchen – 27 feet long – separated from the hall by a long white island with double sink and a glass-topped electric range. The original owners, a duo of graphic designers who bought it from plans, opted not to have a builder kitchen and had a custom one installed once they moved in.
A full wall of cabinets on both ends of the space – one a pantry and wine storage and the other side with fridge and wall-mounted oven and microwave – bracket a wide expanse of the exposed concrete wall that has nothing but decorative storage shelving. There is another unique feature on that wall: a sort of tapestry of tea towels, a concept the couple copied from the original owners by having all their housewarming guests bring a piece of jacquard fabric as a gift.
Opposite the kitchen is an office space that is tucked away behind a custom bookshelf, not walled off but see-through. A huge steel support beam adds to the factory feel in what could be a second bedroom with some creative fixes. The bookshelf, made by a local woodworking artisan, comes with the loft: “It weighs 800 pounds, and our next place could not fit it,” Mr. Gosselin said.
Around the bookcase is the living/dining room, which is 34 feet long and really sells that loft feeling.
“It’s a huge place per Montreal standards, in square footage and the ceilings are 12 feet high,” Mr. Gosselin said. “We have had several thematic parties, like May the Fourth, for Star Wars – we had more than 100 people in the room. We had an art show with Olicorno, he used our apartment for a full day – invited some of his buyers and enthusiasts – he sold them all in one day.”
Along one wall is a vast collection of books, colour-coded but definitely read by these bibliophiles. But even with that the space almost feels underfurnished even with a sectional couch, a dining room and a few modernist chairs spread about. The wall of square-paned windows frames the room and the loft, and looks across to more busy urban life.
Ms. Madé was until recently a talent manager for online influencers and the Instagram-worthy loft and neighbourhood have often served as a backdrop in her clients’ content: videos, photoshoots, even a TV show about technology.
“I became a Lush addict because of the bath in the bedroom, it’s absolutely great to take a bath in the room that’s not the bathroom,” Ms Madé said. The stand-alone bath sits tastefully back from the windows, along the wall that separates the master bedroom from the en suite with huge dark-tiled walk-in shower and closet space. Her favourite product? A tough one, but she prefers to fill her bedroom with the scent of the lush “Peachy” bath bomb, that is indeed shaped like a ripe fruit.
Once, a client of hers, “YouTubeuse” Rosalie Lessard, even did a photoshoot in her precious bath … filling it with milk and Froot Loops cereal and then submerging herself almost entirely in it.
“I don’t enjoy the bath stuff,” said Mr. Gosselin, who prefers the shower. But the openness (there is no door to the bedroom) reminds him of another selling point: they have two dogs and “1,800 square feet without any doors makes a great playing field. The dogs loved it, they could run all the way to the end of the house and back.” There’s also a dog park about 800 metres away, past all those boutiques and tech bros.
Their next place has a similar feel, but is about five kilometres closer to downtown Montreal near where Ms. Madé’s new job will be. Surprise: it’s another converted industrial space, former home to printing presses for the Gazette and La Presse.
“You’re living in something that had roots and history,” she said. ”These are the best places to live in: you are borrowing the history for a short time.”
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