Techie haven Notman House forges forward

The once-abandoned Notman House has emerged as a centre of all things tech in Montreal. Now, one group wants to make its new purpose official.

Notman House. Photo courtesy of

A Montreal group wants to transform a local heritage house into a dream home for tech startups — but first it needs some money.

Following a decade-long stint as an abandoned building, the Notman House, located at the corner of Sherbrooke and Clark, is emerging as a hub for web startups, online freelancers and groups that invest in these types of enterprises.

“It was kind of opened as a test to see if the project would work,” says coordinator Gabriel Sundaram, one of several volunteers spearheading the project, run by the OSMO Foundation.

OSMO is a non-profit group that supports and invests in Montreal’s next generation of DIY web geeks; their vision for Notman House is to provide an affordable office space with desks and Internet access for startups, plus a large event space and a green-roof café.

They’re already part way there, with office space in the Notman renting for $350 a month and over 125 shindigs held in recent months, including hackathons, user meetups and learning events.

But to fulfill the dream, the tech-loving gang needs to purchase the Notman House and a long-neglected red brick hospice located at the building’s rear. And to do that, they need to raise a cool $100K to cover the down payment.

“We’ve received commitments for funding, [but] we haven’t received any funding yet,” explains Sundaram, who says the $100,000 is to close the gap between the hefty funding ($1.7 million) the group has been promised by municipal, provincial and federal governments, pending purchase of the property.

There are big chunks of potential cash flowing in from other groups, too — Investissement Quebec and the Business Development Bank of Canada have committed $4.3 million, and another million is promised by big-name private-sector groups like law firm McCarthy Tétrault and Telesystem.

The OSMO Foundation has launched a fundraising campaign on to encourage donations. It’s hoping to raise the $100,000 by an Oct. 29 deadline. So far, the group is about a quarter of the way there. Sundaram says he’s not sure what will happen if the campaign falls short of its target, but hopes an extension could be arranged.

Sundaram believes the Notman House is a worthwhile project because young online entrepreneurs need options other than working at home or from Starbucks, and there are benefits to working in close proximity to others who share your passion.

Sundaram also says the Notman House’s history makes it a natural spot for such a venture. Built in 1845, the house was once the home of renowned Montreal businessman and photographer William Notman, whose works can be viewed online on the McCord Museum‘s website.

“Notman was the Steve Jobs of his time. He was at the centre of Montreal when it was in its golden age,” says Sundaram. “[He was] really pushing the technology of photography at the time and was also an artist.”

And then there’s the whole neighbourhood-revitalization angle. “We are getting a lot of positive feedback from people in the neighbourhood who have walked by this space for years and years and just know it as something that looks like this kind of haunted house-looking space,” says Sundaram. “They would really love to see it transformed into something more vibrant.” ■

Leave a Reply