We’ve seen few projects as ambitious as Evolo 2. Located on Nuns’ Island and only minutes from downtown Monteral, the condo is just one component of the ambitious, master-planned community of Pointe Nord, a new neighbourhood that promises to exude a European sensibility, foster community connections and provide condo residents with a unique waterfront lifestyle.
We chatted with the Montrealer about LEED buildings, creating a walkable waterfront neighbourhood and how Nuns’ Island has changed over the years.
BuzzBuzzHome: How did you get in the development business?
Ilan Gewurz: I kind of fell into development. My grandfather came to Canada from Europe just before World War II and was part of a group that acquired some land and got involved in Nuns’ Island at the time. They weren’t land developers just purchasers. As a result, in the 60s and 70s, my father started developing the land my grandfather had acquired and didn’t know what to do with.
I went away and was involved in many other fields. I was a lawyer by trade and an organizational consultant. After many years, I came back as my family was getting involved in the planning of Pointe Nord. To me, it was a very, very exciting project.
BBH: What are some of the benefits of living on Nuns’ Island?
IG: You know you have to distinguish between Nuns’ Island and Pointe Nord, because Pointe Nord has all the benefits of Nuns’ Island, plus a lot more.
Historically, Nuns’ Island grew up as a site for country living, fifteen minutes from the city. It has a beautiful forest, it has incredible river views. It’s very outdoorsy and active.
But Nuns’ Island was missing a number of things. It was missing a neighbourhoodiness — a Main Street. Growing up in Canada or North America, we have grown up getting to know franchises and big box stores. And I think people crave a Main Street, a sense of community, a local store, a local restaurant, where you can walk to stores and amenities.
Pointe Nord is a new neighbourhood in a part of Nuns’ Island that is closest to downtown Montreal so it’s literally three to five minutes from downtown.
The great cities of the world all use their waterfronts effectively. They have walking paths, restaurants and promenades on the water, whether it’s New York or Paris, San Francisco or Vancouver. Montreal doesn’t do this. We’re an island and nowhere can you walk along the river.
Pointe Nord is really the first waterfront neighbourhood in the city of Montreal. But more than that, it gives residents of Nuns’ Islands a Main Street, a main commercial heart that is built with no franchises, with mom-and-pop boutique retail where you can sit in a coffee shop and restaurant and look at the river. It’s where you really become part of a community.
LEED really affects your quality of life. You’re lowering your energy bills, you have superior air quality and the buildings are built with super materials. It creates real long-term value for the residents. But beyond just the buildings, Pointe Nord has been certified as a LEED Gold neighbourhood. That means you have proximity to retail, the streets are walkable and there are parks and paths everywhere. We’ve studied the distances of the blocks and the widths of the sidewalks to create a comfortable, walkable neighbourhood.
BBH: You’re really quite passionate about the project. Do you have a favourite aspect?
IG: I think it takes all of these different aspects — the waterfront design, the creation of a neighbourhood and Main Street, the LEED certification, and the high-quality of construction and design — to really bring everything together. For me, the thing that’s most exciting is to see residents walking down the street, meeting each other and just looking so happy.
I think we live in a world where, on one hand there’s so much communication, on the other hand, people are less grounded and less connected to their areas. There’s a lack of community. I think Pointe Nord has been able to achieve that. It’s a treat to sit in the bakery and see people sit around communal tables meeting their neighbours. It’s a bit like old school Europe, but with modern sensibilities.
BBH: Your family has been involved with this land for a long period of time. How is this part of the city changing?
IG: Bell Canada decided to put their headquarters on Nuns’ Island in 2009 and when they did that, they brought about 3,000 employees to the area each day. That makes the commercial viability of the project much easier and has increased public transport to the island too. That’s given a certain amount of life to the neighbourhood that is able to grow organically around the rest of Nuns’ Island.
A lot of Nuns’ Island developed with some rather large and expensive units. A lot of people were reluctant to even look at the area because of the price point, but when we developed Pointe Nord, we really developed it with a mix of unit sizes to create a variety of price points. I think Pointe Nord has made Nuns’ Island accessible to a lot of people in a different way.
BBH: What else is unique about the neighbourhood and the way you are developing it?
IG: A lot of neighbourhoods grow up with six or seven developers, each of which are only looking at their little piece of pie. But who’s looking out for the integration of it all? What does the neighbourhood feel like on the ground level? What does the street front look like? It’s hard for the city to control that.
One of the unique features of Pointe Nord is that there’s one developer — it’s a master planned community so the integration of the architecture is lovely and residents will also be able to tell what their views are going to be when they buy. We know where every building will be to the end.
We’re very lucky since the city agreed to put in the parks and the plazas in advance. That’s already in place, even for the first residents. They don’t have to wait to enjoy those spaces.