A cluster of six industrial properties in Old St. Boniface is being given a new lease on life.
The properties all share the same address -- 490 Rue Des Meurons -- and include a former International Laboratories/Color Your World paint factory, a former steel-cutting plant, a common area, and three vacant parcels of land immediately east of the other three properties.
A local religious group -- the Twelve Tribes Community -- purchased the four-storey paint factory a number of years ago and earlier this year opened three new organic/wholesome products outlets in the building -- Common Sense Deli & Bakery, Common Sense Natural Foods, and Common Sense Storehouse.
A paper-box manufacturing company recently leased the former steel-cutting plant next door, and a local numbered company has purchased the three vacant lots with the intention of building a $30-million, 75- to 90-unit condominium complex.
A spokesman for the numbered company -- Georges Bohemier, broker/owner of Century 21 Carrie.com -- said the firm is spending more than $1 million on removing contaminated soil from the three lots and replacing it with clean soil.
Bohemier said the cleanup should be completed in six to 12 months and work on the condo development is scheduled to begin next fall. The complex will be built in three phases, with each taking about a year to complete.
The project, which hasn't been given a name yet, will be the company's second condo development in the area. It also built the 36-unit Pointe Riviere complex on nearby Rue Youville.
Bohemier doesn't foresee any difficulty finding buyers for the condos.
"The demand is there. People want to be in St. Boniface."
The redevelopment of the Rue Des Meurons properties is being hailed as good news by spokesmen for the local French community's economic development agency -- Enterprises Riel -- and the Old St. Boniface Residents Association.
"This (the paint factory) was an old industrial building with all kinds of contamination issues," Enterprises Riel CEO Norm Gousseau said in an interview. "It's definitely the direction we'd like to see St. Boniface go."
Gousseau said Old St. Boniface has been experiencing a renaissance in recent years, with new condo and single-family housing developments springing up north of Boulevard Provencher, and several new condo complexes being built on Avenue Tache and Goulet Street.
He said there are also at least two other commercial properties on Marion Street and another on Goulet that are slated for redevelopment. And Enterprises Riel hopes to attract more new retail/commercial development to Boulevard Provencher.
"There is definitely some pretty decent investment going into St. Boniface," he added, "but there can always be more."
Residents association president Matt Allard said it's encouraging to see former industrial sites being converted to retail and residential use.
"We know there can be issues when you have industrial mixing with residential. So I think there is a general desire on the part of residents in the area to move towards it being a more residential area," Allard said. "And seeing properties move from industrial to residential or commercial use is definitely a step in the right direction."
Nadiv Urban, one of the leaders of the Twelve Tribes Community, said some people questioned the group's decision to relocate its Common Sense deli/bakery/food store operations from Sherbrook Street to Rue Des Meurons.
"A lot of people were saying, 'Why do you want to go there? Nobody is out there,' " he said during a recent tour of the building. "But we've met the most wonderful people since we moved here. And it's progressing and getting busier. We're seeing new people in here all the time."
He said the group plans to roughly double the size of the deli over the next six to 12 months and add a couple of new lounge areas. And within the next two to three years, it hopes to expand the bakery into main-floor space now occupied by a metal-fabrication company it owns -- M.B. Machine.
The metal-fabrication shop will be relocated. They're not sure what they'll do with the top two floors of the paint factory building, now used for storage, or with two smaller buildings at the back of the property.
The smaller buildings are in rough shape but Urban hopes to save them.
"Restoration is an important part of our life," said Urban.
Know of any newsworthy or interesting trends or developments in the local office, retail or industrial real estate sectors? Let real estate reporter Murray McNeill know at the email address below, or at 204-697-7254.