Broccolini: From L’Avenue to Radio-Canada
Anthony Broccolini is a busy man. Since the last time we caught up with Broccolini's Chief Operating Officer, nearly five years ago, the family business has continued to carve out a sizeable piece of Montreal's commercial construction market – along with a growing portfolio of new development projects to bolster the company's order book. The company has also successfully moved into the Southern Ontario market, where its Toronto office now totals over 75 employees.
In Montreal, Broccolini recently completed the development of L'Avenue, a 50-storey condo/mixed-use project adjacent the Bell Centre. The project was an unbridled success: the condos sold well and Provigo and WeWork leased space in the building's commercial space (along with Starbucks and National Bank). The commercial portion of the property is currently under contract to a major Canadian real estate fund manager.
The next big thing for Broccolini in Montreal is the development of the new headquarters
for Radio-Canada, which is set to break ground later this year. We met with Anthony Broccolini to discuss these two projects and the company's strategy for success in Montreal and across the country.
Espace Montreal: L'Avenue was certainly an ambitious project from an architectural and design perspective. What were the challenges on the construction side?
Anthony Broccolini: From an architectural perspective we really wanted to create a gem that would stand out on the city's skyline. We are very proud of it and happy to see that it's achieved that.
Our initial challenge was to come up with something that would stand apart and fit within our budgets. The real issue was the coordination of the mixed-use podium for four different uses: office, retail, parking and residential. For example, we had to create three different lobbies and provide a loading dock on the ground floor. As we secured the tenants for the commercial and office space the plans came together to meet their needs.
Combining all these components into the 33,000-square-foot site was a challenge at first; however, with the help of the professionals we chose for the job and our own experience, we were able to come up with a winning formula for everybody. The first three of the above-ground floors are commercial space, with four floors of office space above that and then 16,000 square feet of amenity space for the condo owners on top of that – followed by 40 floors of condos. It is certainly the biggest mixed-use project of its type to be built in Montreal.
Espace Montreal: With WeWork taking most of the office space in the project and Provigo and National Bank taking the bulk of the retail space, how much is still available in the building?
Anthony Broccolini: WeWork leased three of the four office floors in the podium, so one floor is still available for lease. On the retail side there are still 10,000 square feet available. With the podium under contract, it will ultimately be the prerogative of the new owners to do what they would like to with the space.
Espace Montreal: You must be pleased with the results at L'Avenue?
Anthony Broccolini: Definitely. When we bought the land in 2012 it was obviously a very ambitious project. Even though the market was very different than it is today, the project went off without a hitch. We had a great group of partners, consultants and trades that worked with us as well as a super team at Broccolini. We did everything from A to Z on this project as the lead developer and builder.
Espace Montreal: Does it make you want to do more development projects?
Anthony Broccolini: For sure. This is what I love the most personally. Having your hands in every aspect of the development process and understanding the ramifications of the decisions you make, this is what I find most satisfying. L'Avenue provides a perfect case study of how to do a successful mixed-use project downtown. It was a great experience.
Espace Montreal: Moving on to the next challenge, how is the Radio-Canada project progressing?
Anthony Broccolini: The project will get underway after the construction holidays in late summer. We have to make a lot of things happen in a very short timeframe, and the city has been very collaborative in allowing us to move forward.
Espace Montreal: How big is the project?
Anthony Broccolini: It is just over half a million square feet of office and technical space. Basically, the project is divided into three different components: the studios and technical space are in a building facing Viger Avenue; in the middle there is a four-storey office building; then there is a seven-storey office building fronting René-Lévesque Boulevard. The two office buildings are separated by a 10,000-square-foot atrium that will be a phenomenal space that will help Radio-Canada's employees stay connected and collaborate together.
One of the Radio-Canada objectives with the project is to invite the public in and accommodate as much as they can from a public perspective, while creating good synergies for their employees. The atrium really communicates and connects the buildings. When you are in a large company on different floors it can be a challenge to communicate – we found a way to bring them closer together.
Espace Montreal: How long will it take to build?
Anthony Broccolini: It is not a conventional downtown office building. It is being built on a greenfield site and we only have to go down one floor, so once it gets going it will really come out of the ground fast. We are going to be delivering it at the end of 2019, so it will take just over two years to build from start to finish.
Espace Montreal: What are the challenges in building it in this timeframe?
Anthony Broccolini: The technical requirements of this building are going to be very impressive, so managing and coordinating this is the biggest challenge. The base building work is very straightforward for us, along with the office space. It is the technical space that requires more detailed construction planning and coordination. We have a great design team working on the project and the client has been amazing to work with. They are very engaged and hands-on in terms of the design process. This will certainly make the job easier to pull off on time and on budget.
Espace Montreal: Again, Broccolini is the developer of the Radio-Canada project. How much of Broccolini's work is for yourselves and how much is for third-parties?
Anthony Broccolini: Our annual construction revenues are about $500 million. Of this, about half comes from our own development projects, with the other half coming from general contracting work. We never have a set plan as to the ratio of in-house development to general the past five or six years it's been pretty much split down the middle, so it's a healthy balance. Working with third parties is the foundation of our business and our reputation. Being vertically integrated has allowed us to segue into the real estate business over the past 15 years.
Espace Montreal: On the development side, Broccolini has land across the city, notably on the West Island and in Saint-Laurent. How are your built-to-suit and commercial developments doing?
Anthony Broccolini: Development is a huge added-value for us. We understand the real estate markets very well and try to position ourselves strategically in different parts of the city in order to be near the action. When we buy land we want to build on it tomorrow, but you have to take a long-term approach to new development and try to foresee where the trends are and where companies want to locate. It might take a couple of years, but having an active land bank certainly helps to feed our construction business.
You want to have a steady stream of development sites and third-party jobs in order to keep busy on all fronts. In Montreal we are definitely focused on the industrial and office front, whether it's our own developments or for third-party clients. On the third-party side in Montreal we focus on industrial and retail projects mostly. We don't do retail development unless it's within a mixed-use project.
Espace Montreal: What are some highlights of your third-party construction jobs on the books this summer?
Anthony Broccolini: We're working on a major retail redevelopment project for Ivanhoé Cambridge at Centre Eaton. We are also building a new distribution centre for IKEA. These projects, along with others, will certainly keep us busy, with Maison Radio-Canada of course!