Shiller Lavy

Photo by Peggy Burns

Shiller Lavy is saying goodbye to most of its properties on St-Viateur

221 St-Viateur W., 5424 Clark and 5490 St-Laurent, home to 18 apartments and seven commercial spaces, are now for sale, and the tenants we spoke to had no idea.

Shiller Lavy is saying goodbye to most of its properties on St-Viateur. The controversial property investors, who have been accused of spearheading gentrification by hiking up rents and kicking out neighbourhood institutions in favour of chain stores, are selling three of their five buildings on the Mile End street. 

The buildings for sale are 221 St-Viateur West, 5424 Clark and 5490 St-Laurent, collectively home to 18 apartments and seven commercial spaces. They were listed at the beginning of January with a combined asking price of just over $13-million. 

None of the tenants interviewed by Cult MTL were told that the buildings were for sale. “I wasn’t aware,” says Yoni Amir, owner of Falafel Yoni, which is located in one of the buildings. “I think it’s good business practice to let your tenants know their building is for sale, but I guess that’s not what they think.”

Falafel Yoni Shiller Lavy Mile End St-Viateur
Falafel Yoni, one of the Shiller Lavy properties on St-Viateur that’s now for sale.

Over the past decade, Shiller Lavy has assembled a sizable portfolio of properties around Mile End, and the company has been blamed by neighbourhood residents for hiking up rents that have forced a number of prominent businesses to move or close, including queer café and event space le Cagibi and Pâtisserie Charles de Gaulle. In their place have come chains like Lululemon, QDC Burger and upscale taqueria la Catrina. 

“With Shiller Lavy among other people having moved into the neighbourhood, it definitely meant rents went up,” says Amir.

The most recent controversy came in 2021 when beloved local bookshop S.W. Welch was threatened by closure after Shiller Lavy tried to triple its rent. The company backed down after the move sparked a public backlash and widespread media coverage. 

It’s not clear why Shiller Lavy has decided to sell most of its properties on the street; the company’s co-founder, Danny Lavy, and commercial real estate director, Émilie Gauvin, did not respond to calls, emails and text messages from Cult MTL. Daniel Beauchemin, the real estate agent in charge of the listings, says the company wants to “consolidate its holdings in other areas of the market.” But sources say that Shiller Lavy — which tends to hold interest-only mortgages on its buildings — has taken a hit with this year’s interest rate hikes. 

Mile End Ensemble
Mile End Ensemble mobilizing for S.W. Welch, March 2021. Photos by Evan Lindsay

“Either they need cash for something else, or they decided that St-Viateur was more trouble than it’s worth and they want to move on, or they think the properties have reached peak value and it’s time to sell out,” says Mile End historian Justin Bur, who has followed St-Viateur’s evolution from low-key, neighbourhood-oriented street to buzzy tourist destination. 

Beauchemin says the cooling property market hasn’t hit Mile End as hard as other parts of Montreal. “Prices have been adjusted and the market is much slower, but there’s a lot of interest in Mile End in particular,” he says. Although there haven’t yet been any offers on the three Shiller Lavy buildings, there have been plenty of inquiries from “medium-sized” property investors who already own buildings in Outremont and the Plateau. 

Shop owners and neighbourhood residents are holding their breath. “One can hope that it’ll be for the better, that the new owners will be more realistic in their expectations of rent levels and more respectful of long-term tenants, commercial diversity and the needs and desires of residents – not just office workers at lunchtime,” says Bur. “However, there do exist worse landowners than Shiller Lavy, so there is still a possibility that things could get worse.”

S.W. Welch Shiller Lavy
S.W. Welch. Photo by by Taras Grescoe

“I hope it’s somebody who cares enough about the neighbourhood to maintain good relations with the tenants and is responsive to their needs,” says Amir. 

Beauchemin says it’s unlikely any new owners will try to raise shop rents – but they might focus on hiking residential rents instead. “Retail revenues have reached maturity,” he says. “But there’s a lot of catching up to do in terms of residential rents, particularly in one of the buildings. There are apartments that still haven’t been renovated.” 

For S.W. Welch, it’s already too late. Public support helped the bookstore win a two-year lease extension in 2021, but it’s coming up next July. After that, owner Stephen Welch will likely close the shop and retire, unless the new landlord is willing to offer a long-term lease at an affordable rate. 

“I guess I just regret that Shiller Lavy bought the place and ran through St-Viateur with their rent hikes. It won’t ever be the same.”

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