We often talk about the challenges associated with smaller scale developments on this blog. They are difficult to underwrite, there are diseconomies of scale and, after a certain point, developers typically start to require a certain minimum size. In other words, if you have a big development machine with a lot of fixed costs, you probably don’t want to build even 100-150 homes at a time. You want something like 250-300 homes as a starting point.
But there is something so great about small infill projects, which is another topic that we like to talk about on this blog. Take, for example, the above 10,940 square foot project at 6001-6009 Rue St-Hubert in Montréal. Designed by L. McComber, the project includes 2 commercial spaces and 8 homes (specifically, 2 studios and 4 multi-level “townhouses”).
Using rough measurement approximations from Google Maps, the lot looks to be about 15m wide x 26m deep. So the lot itself is somewhere around 4,200 sf, which is effectively a double lot based on the prevailing frontages in the area. According to this rough math, I’m guessing the FSI (floor space index) of this development is somewhere around 2.5x.
It is certainly a beautiful project, but in my mind the two most noteworthy aspects of this development — at least for this audience — are the following:
- The architect essentially acted as the developer. They wanted to build and then own their own office space, and so they now occupy the ground floor of this project. As a partial end-user of the development, this likely means that they underwrote it slightly differently compared to if they were a pure developer.
- The project’s circulation space is outside and is largely housed in a central open-air courtyard.
Here’s what #2 looks like:
This second point about circulation is an important one because it’s an effective way to reduce hard costs, improve overall efficiency (rentable/saleable divided by gross construction area), and lower long-term operating costs. Of course, exterior stairs/circulation are quite common across Montréal’s walkups. So maybe this isn’t all that novel for them.
But I still think it’s a perfect reminder that we shouldn’t use climate as an excuse. Montréal is both colder and snowier than Toronto. And just look how they’re building. I would happily live here. Would you?
Missing middle housing really does create an opportunity for smaller (and more) participants to build wealth through the creation of housing. A democratization of development of sorts.
I’m originally from Newfoundland, and they do have ‘big builders’, although many homes are built by people who build just one at a time.
I wonder if that metal grate walkway would be loud when people are walking on it? Nice aesthetic but curious how it would be in real life
When it comes to exterior staircases, Montreal is definitely built different.