Celebrating 30 Years of Excellence
As we adapt to the COVID era, our cities, likewise, continue to evolve and change. In Canada’s second-most populous city, residents and building owners alike grapple with rising costs of living. Yet one building firm has consistently demonstrated a commitment to customer service and satisfaction. Boldly choosing to embrace a wide market, Mondev Construction is looking toward a bright future.
Mondev traces its proud history back nearly thirty years, when it began taking on property management roles across Montreal.
“We made money; we lost money,” Founder and Senior Partner David Owen recalls of that era. But after years of beneficial—if occasionally painful—learning experiences, Mondev branched out into commercial building and development in 2003 and has continued its residential building and management commitments since then. Its team has also branched out as well, with David’s two sons Mark and Jordan and younger brother Michael joining the family business.
Today, Mondev offers residential and commercial properties across Montreal for rent or purchase. The company owns and operates over twenty apartment buildings and condominiums in vibrant downtown areas like Le Plateau Mont Royal, Griffintown, Mile Ex, and LaSalle. At the time of this writing, three more are in their final stages of development in Ville-Marie and Saint-Laurent with estimated completion in 2023 and 2024.
The company also develops several homes and townhouses for sale, with two more under construction. Finally, it owns and operates approximately 100 commercial buildings, providing ultra-modern and efficient office space in prime neighbourhoods in one of Canada’s most beautiful cities. With this versatile business model, Mondev has morphed into construction of purchase-built rentals and acquisition of previously built properties. “We’re really, today, a fully-integrated real estate development and investment company,” says Michael Owen.
Mondev has marked its upcoming anniversary with a look back on its growth as a real estate provider and manager. “It’s really evolved in different areas of the real estate business,” Michael remarks. “Property management turned into construction and large scale developments projects.”
The expansion continues today with the largest project being new developments in the Montreal arrondissement of Outremont. A disused CP rail depot has been purchased by the University of Montreal, and Mondev is one of several area developers tapped to redevelop the area into new condos and businesses.
“We’ve created a whole new part of town that didn’t exist before,” Michael says. David estimates that, between the Outremont, Griffintown, and other projects, over 1400 units are now in development.
Remarkably, the company has achieved thirty years of success without going public; all of its funding is entirely private. While this may limit its ability to take on large projects, this also removes any outside interests. “That allows us to own the entirety of the project,” David Owen explains. “Even though we’re very, very active, we’re very cautious with the types of properties we buy.” This strategy of internal funding helps keep it grounded and focused. “We’re not chasing deals… at prices we feel are out of the market.”
Another feature which differentiates Mondev is its noteworthy ability to find new locations and identify neighbourhoods ripe for development, a testament to its long time in business. This has given it a large array of land and properties for potential development, leading to a full development pipeline with little opportunity for downtimes. The company’s experience has taught it to stockpile supplies well in advance to keep lead times manageable, more necessary than ever in today’s world of supply chain difficulties. As Michael explains, this helps not only keep projects moving on schedule but also within budget. “We’ve stocked plumbing supplies, we’ve stocked electrical supplies in buildings to guard against any rapid increase in costs,” he says. Finally, after nearly three decades in business, Mondev has been fortunate to build a strong network with its partner contractors and suppliers across its operational area.
However, it may be the company’s range of amenities throughout its properties that truly sets it apart. With cities becoming more vertical and centralized, tenants are asking for more features such as lounges, pools, and gyms. Regarding the last feature, Michael is specific: any gym in Mondev’s buildings is “a very well-equipped gym—not the kind of gym with two treadmills and an elliptical trainer,” he affirms. “Our gyms are real gyms.”
David notes that, in today’s real estate market, amenities are not an extra but a necessity. Additionally, he says they are a minor financial investment: “The cost of the amenities, compared to the cost of the entire project, is not very high,” he says. “For us, it’s a must-have.” As living units worldwide become smaller and more functional, the company sees its mission to help tenants enjoy their living spaces as much as possible.
Part of that mission, and a difficult balance to strike, is obtaining tenant feedback. Apart from empirical means such as statistically measuring when, how often and at what times of day tenants use certain amenities, Mondev proactively solicits regular feedback to ensure tenants are receiving and enjoying the amenities they need. From managers on down, the company also does its utmost to hear all perspectives. “We try to treat everybody in a fair way,” David says.
It is tempting, in real estate as in any business, to stick with one’s chosen niche. The company, however, has decided to boldly embrace a wide market beyond rental property management with its broad portfolio. “We’re entrepreneurs at heart, so when we see opportunity, we’ll go for it,” Michael explains. He recalls an occasion from earlier in Mondev’s history, when the company had the chance to buy and repurpose some old industrial property. “Had I operated with this ‘singular focus’ strategy, I would have missed out on an opportunity that resulted in an enormous success for us,” he states, emphasizing the importance of taking risks and having a forward-thinking philosophy. “I think that, if you’re in business and you see an opportunity, then you should grab it, and if it’s a little outside of your focus—so what?”
Partly thanks to this bold strategy, Mondev has been riding a wave of market-related rapid growth in recent months. When the pandemic hit, the company was able to fall back on its decades of built capital and wait for the right openings. David relates that the company bucked the business trend of pandemic-induced conservatism to buy properties when competitors were not. “We’ve built up a big land inventory, which we still have now,” he says, estimating that this inventory will keep it going for up to ten years.
As Mondev looks forward to its future, David and his team are well aware of the important balance between market factors and a growing population’s needs: “People are always going to want to have affordable housing,” he points out, elaborating that, in Montreal, cries for more housing are starting to drown out other voices calling for more sustainable development.
Mondev is in a strong position to adapt to changing market trends. Its experience and policy of internal financing have given it rich capital reserves on which to fall back. Rising inflation and interest rates are giving some the fear of an oncoming recession, but David says that inactivity is occasionally acceptable. “Sometimes, to do nothing is also an option,” he says. “We’re going to listen to what the market is telling us.”
He and his team remain convinced Montreal is one of the best places to live in Canada and, indeed, the world. Its rich demographics, growing economy, and vibrant culture provide Mondev an excellent place to build, he says. “We’re really grateful for all that and plan to keep going.”