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  1. First the Main, now it's downtown's turn Construction. Major projects have merchants, drivers in grumble mode Motorists negotiate the traffic and construction at de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Guy St. yesterday. The statue of Norman Bethune has been removed while work is under way.DAVE SIDAWAY THE GAZETTE, JASON MAGDER, The Gazette If you want to know how much it has snowed this winter, head for Place Norman Bethune at de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Guy St. The square, which is the cornerstone of a $22-million facelift for the Concordia University neighbourhood, has been cordoned off with metal fences since October. As a result, snow banks have grown to three metres. However, the transformation of Place Bethune is only one of three major construction projects under way on the corner. Motorists negotiate the traffic and construction at de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Guy St. yesterday. The statue of Norman Bethune has been removed while work is under way Like the merchants caught up in the seemingly endless construction on St. Laurent Blvd., those in this corner of downtown feel choked by street work. While improvements are wrapping up on the Main, crews are just getting started on the Place Bethune beautification project that is expected to last at least until 2011. In the meantime, it' a corner of hell for motorists and pedestrians. "Nobody passes by here anymore," said Mohammad Saken, 28, the manager of Dépanneur Beau Prix on de Maisonneuve west of Guy. "It's already our second year with construction here, and it looks like we're going to have long-term construction. That's going to screw up our business big time." Some merchants complain the constant construction is also dangerous. Saad Salem, the kitchen manager at the Château Kabab restaurant, said he saw a man fall into a hole, which had been dug three weeks ago by the city's Electrical Services Commission to work on underground wiring on Guy north of de Maisonneuve. "A few days ago, a handicapped man fell right into the hole because he didn't see it," Salem said, adding the man wasn't seriously injured. "The company came the next day and put up a fence around the area. But they made the hole and then left it like that, without doing any work. That wasn't a great idea." Serge Boileau, president of the Electrical Services Commission, did not return calls yesterday. Merchants say they are pleased the city is spending money to beautify the area, but say the timing is bad, coming after a summer in which they had to contend both with construction on a new Concordia business school and jackhammers installing a bike path along de Maisonneuve's south side. The bike path is completed, but cyclists, pedestrians and motorists have an obstacle course of four construction sites to negotiate just to cross the street. A southbound lane of Guy is closed from de Maisonneuve to Ste. Catherine St. while crews working on Concordia's new John Molson School of Business building, as is part of de Maisonneuve west of Guy. The north side of de Maisonneuve between Mackay and Guy Sts. is also blocked by traffic cones and trailers, which are used by construction foremen as offices. "It's slushy and dirty and it hasn't been cleaned up in ages," said Melissa Ajamian, 21, who lives on St. Mathieu St. "You used to be able to just walk through this area, but now it's very difficult." Sylvain Ducas, the city's project manager of Place Bethune, said it will take two years to complete the work on the square. "We could have done it in one year, but we need to keep the street open," Ducas said. "I'm sure the merchants will agree with that."
  2. Stage is set for Montreal to grow as a technology startup hub BERTRAND MAROTTE MONTREAL — The Globe and Mail Burgeoning tech companies are on the rise in Canada, attracting funding and IPO buzz in hubs across the country. Our occasional series explores how each locale nurtures its entrepreneurs, the challenges they face and the rising stars we’re watching. Montreal provides an ideal setting for the early care and feeding of tech startups. The city boasts a lively cultural milieu, a party-hearty mindset, cheap rents and a bargain-priced talent pool. ALSO ON THE GLOBE AND MAIL MULTIMEDIAStartup city: The high-tech fever reshaping Kitchener-Waterloo What it doesn’t have, though, is sufficient critical mass to propel promising tech companies forward in their later stages. Case in point: VarageSale Inc., the mobile app and listings marketplace that serial entrepreneur Carl Mercier co-founded with his wife Tami Zuckerman three years ago. Mr. Mercier and Ms. Zuckerman were quite content in the early going with the Montreal zeitgeist and support from the city’s tightly knit startup community as they nurtured their baby, a combination virtual garage sale, swap meet and social meeting place. But as VarageSale took off, the burgeoning company was no longer able to feed its growth relying only on Montreal resources. Mr. Mercier eventually opened an office in Toronto to tap into the wider and deeper software-developer talent pool in the Toronto-Waterloo corridor and he ultimately decided to move the head office to the Queen City. “We were growing extremely fast. We were hiring like gangbusters in Montreal but we needed to hire even faster, so we decided we needed two talent pools, but Toronto ended up growing faster than Montreal,” Mr. Mercier explains. “Occasionally, we will hire people in Montreal. “There’s a vibrant startup scene [in Montreal]. It’s not a big startup scene but it’s a vibrant one,” he adds. “There is lots of activity, a lot of events, a lot of early-stage capital. Startups can get off the ground cheaply and quickly.” It’s the later stages that present problems, according to successful local entrepreneur and angel investor Daniel Robichaud, whose password-management firm PasswordBox Inc. was bought last year by U.S. chip giant Intel. “Montreal is a terrific place to build a product but it’s not where the action is. It’s not a place to raise funding,” Mr. Robichaud said in a recent industry conference presentation. Montreal startup founders often find themselves having no choice but to move to bigger playgrounds because of a still-embryonic domestic investor scene, says Université de Montréal artificial intelligence researcher Joshua Bengio. The startup sphere in Montreal is “quite active, but the investors are too faint-hearted and short-term oriented, and so the developers often go elsewhere, particularly California and New York,” he said. In true Quebec Inc. fashion, the provincial government and labour funds have stepped in to fill the gap of funding homegrown companies. A key player is Teralys Capital, a fund manager that finances private venture capital funds that is backed by a score of provincial players – including the mighty pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the labour fund Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Investissement Québec – said Chris Arseneault, co-founder of Montreal-based early-stage venture capital firm iNovia Capital. “They’ve been the most creative groups to try and put money at work,” he says about Teralys and its backers. Startup directory BuiltinMtl, has about 520 Montreal startups listed (excluding biotechs, film-and-tv-production houses or video-game developers). The actual number is probably closer to a “few thousand” if very early-stage startups still under the radar are included, according to Andrew Popliger, senior manager in PricewaterhouseCooper’s Assurance practice. Data from the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association indicate venture capital firms invested $295-million in Quebec last year – just 15 per cent of the Canadian total – compared with $932-million in Ontario and $554-million in B.C. Most insiders and observers agree that what works in the Montreal tech “ecosystem” is a strong sense of community. There is a spirit of collaboration and collective vision. Notman House, a repurposed mansion adjacent to Sherbrooke Street’s famous Golden Square Mile, which sits at the crossroads of the city’s tech startup scene, rents office and workstation space, stages events, and acts as an incubator and networking locale and launch pad for budding companies seeking their big break. It represents everything that makes Montreal distinct in the North American startup sphere, says Noah Redler, the venue’s campus director. “We’re not just an incubator. We’re a community centre. We bring people together and collaborate. People are supported and surrounded by [successful] entrepreneurs,” he said. “There are more startups in the Waterloo area but there is more of a community feeling in Montreal,” says Katherine Barr, the Canadian-born co-chair of C100, a Silicon Valley expat group that helps connect Canadian entrepreneurs with U.S. investors. “They’ve built a real community here. Like Silicon Valley, its co-opetition, both competing and helping each other,” Ms. Barr said during a break at AccelerateMTL, an annual conference that brings together “founders and funders.” There may not be as great a number of head offices as in Toronto but the potential for big breakthroughs in Montreal is impressive, says John Ruffolo, chief executive officer of OMERS Ventures, the venture arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. “For Montreal, it’s only a matter of time. They’re going to have their Shopify,” he says in reference to the Ottawa-based e-commerce platform that has become a stock market star. For now though, Montreal may have to settle for being a relatively small player and modest incubator of talent and ideas on the North American startup scene, even compared with Vancouver and Toronto.
  3. A $45-million investment by Ivanhoe Cambridge - Place Vertu Gets a Makeover MONTREAL, Nov. 29 /CNW Telbec/ - Place Vertu, owned and managed by Ivanhoe Cambridge, is happy to announce a $45-million investment (including all related fees) in the shopping centre, located in the borough of Saint-Laurent in Montreal, to carry out a large-scale redevelopment project. Construction work for this much-anticipated undertaking, designed to revitalize the property and its retail mix, began in the summer of 2007 and will wrap up in the spring of 2009. "We are very enthusiastic about renovating Place Vertu. This project is in keeping with our strategy to continuously enhance our properties and strengthen their market position and share," said Jean Laramée, Senior Vice President, Eastern Region, Ivanhoe Cambridge. "This is excellent news for Place Vertu and its customers!" said Michael Bonetto, General Manager of Place Vertu. "The project will enable Place Vertu to take full advantage of its strategic location in the heart of Saint-Laurent, one of the fastest-growing communities on the Island of Montreal. Naturally, we will be doing everything we can to minimize any inconvenience to our tenants and ensure that our customers can continue to shop undisturbed." The main highlights of the project are as follows: << - Closing of The Bay, and relocation of Zellers into the vacated premises, with its brand-new Zellers + concept (120,000 square feet over two floors). Official opening scheduled for December 1, 2007. - Expansion, reconfiguration and renovation of the food court to make it more cosy and appealing. Expected completion: Spring 2008. - Expansion of several stores and arrival of new retailers. - Indoor and outdoor renovations and addition of decorative elements to complement the centre's overall design. Construction of new entrances and modernization of the façade along Côte-Vertu Boulevard. >> The project is already generating a great deal of interest among retailers, and talks are currently under way with a number of potential tenants. Leasing agreements were recently signed or scheduled to be signed very shortly with Winners, which will occupy some 25,000 square feet as of summer 2008, Browns Shoes Outlet, Lace Canada (a high-end women's fashion retailer), La Vie en Rose/Aqua, Urban Planet and a 25,000-square-foot specialized grocery store. About Place Vertu Located in the borough of Saint-Laurent in Montreal, a stone's throw away from one of Canada's largest industrial parks, Place Vertu opened for business in 1975. Today, it features four anchor tenants and some 155 stores and services. Its gross leasable area, including an office component, is nearly 924,000 square feet and it greets close to 6.5 million shoppers every year. Place Vertu is owned and managed by Ivanhoe Cambridge.
  4. A man with a soft spot for Montreal's seafarers He kept a low profile but he was gregarious, a giant of Old Montreal, with a strong feel for its history ALAN HUSTAKThe Gazette Sunday, January 27, 2008 Grant Townsend, who owned a waterfront maritime supply company, was for more than 30 years involved in the direction of Mariners House, a hostel and social centre for itinerant seafarers in Old Montreal. Much more than an active Mariners House board member, he often contributed directly to sailors in need out of his own pocket. Townsend was 92 when he died at St. Mary's Hospital on Jan. 9. "He was a very good money manager. He was very involved in the welfare of Mariners House," said the institution's manager, Carolyn Osborne. "He never wanted to be board president because he was always bucking the board's considered opinion. "When our original building was put up for sale in the 1970s, the board was ready to take the first measly offer it could get, but he insisted they hold out for a much more substantial offer to guarantee the future of Mariners House." Grant William Townsend, the eldest of six children in a ship's chandler's family, was born in Montreal on Sept. 15, 1915, into a long line of seafarers. One of his ancestors was a British navy officer who took part in the siege of Louisbourg in 1758. His grandfather was the captain of a Nova Scotia windjammer. His father, Dudley Roy Townsend, founded the Montreal shipping supply company in 1917 and was Canada's comptroller for shipping supplies during the Second World War. For his contributions he was awarded the Order of the British Empire. Townsend had hoped to enlist in the Royal Canadian Navy during the war, but was rejected because of poor eyesight. Townsend was raised in Westmount and obtained an engineering degree from McGill University in 1950. He worked for Alcan then started a scaffolding company that he owned with a partner until he joined his father's business in 1961. Encouraged by his father, Townsend took an active interest in sailors' welfare and was a fundraiser for the Sailors' Institute. He helped negotiate its 1968 merger with the Catholic Sailors Club, which had been started in 1893, into the non-denominational Mariners House. A gregarious individual with a soft spot for those who worked the waterfront, he often housed as many or six or seven seamen in the second floor of his warehouse. "The work he did was unbelievable, he was always involved in service clubs, like the Rotary Club, and as vice-president of the Ship Suppliers Association. He kept a very low profile," said his widow, Berna Nardin. "He always could work his way around any problem and find a solution. "He was very determined. More than money, he used his influence to get things done. He was soft. He'd often hire people because they needed a job, not because they were necessarily qualified." Townsend's company warehouse in the Gillespie Moffatt building on Place d'Youville stood on the site of a mansion built in 1691 for Louis-Hector de Callière, who was governor of Montreal from 1684 to 1698 and then governor of New France until he died in 1703. Seven years ago Townsend sold the historic property to the Pointe à Callière archeological museum for well below its market value. It was, he said, his gift to the city. The museum plans to incorporate the foundations of the mansion into an expanded $30-million underground gallery. "He adored Old Montreal and was steeped in its history," Nardin said. "Rather than see the building fall into the hands of a developer who wouldn't respect the historic foundations, he wanted it preserved as an archeological site." His first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife, Berna Nardin, a former teacher and translator whom he married in 1982, and by the four children he and his first wife adopted. [email protected] © The Gazette (Montreal) 2008 http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=d15bfab5-c24f-4c3f-862c-daeb870f75dc