Private residences add to Montreal’s student housing milieu

Although private residences have had a presence in the Montreal area for a while, this past year has seen a surge in local private residences aimed at McGill students.

Two new residences, Evo Sherbrooke and Parc Cité along Sherbrooke St. and Parc Ave. respectively opened this spring, minutes away from McGill’s downtown campus. This fall, the Edison residences along University St. also opened.

Although students find themselves housed in apartment units throughout the Montreal area, new private residences are offering students a chance to live in dorm-like settings with shared kitchen and living room facilities.

Many private residences, including Evo Sherbrooke and Parc Cité, further offer amenities such as pools, gyms, study lounges, and game rooms to residents. They also have multiple dining options and culinary facilities provided for students.

Olivier Monnais, evo’s area manager for Montreal, explained that the appeal of new private residences lies in the quality of services offered to the students, which differ from renting out single apartment units.

“I hate to use the word ‘luxury’ but we’re obviously an upscale residence,” he said. “It’s like a hotel. And not a two-star hotel, more like a four-star.”

According to Monnais, the residences are trying to appeal to the same type of student who would live in the McGill hotel-style dorms. In fact, these downtown upscale residences can be seen as direct competitors with McGill’s own hotel style residences. Evo Sherbrooke neighbours La Citadelle and is across the street from Carrefour Sherbrooke. Parc Cité is similarly down the street from New Residence Hall.

“Because of this property’s location, our market is obviously a McGill market,” Monnais said. “I would say that 99 per cent of our clientele is from the university.”

He continued to highlight that legally, he did not discriminate between applicants who were students and those who were not.

“Here in Quebec, the law forbids me from only accepting students,” he said.

On the other hand, Janice Johnson, managing director of residence life and customer relations at Student Housing and Hospitality Services, stated that McGill residences and for-profit private residences offered vastly different opportunities to students.

According to Johnson, there are things that private residences simply cannot offer students, despite their brand new facilities and full time service.

“The programming, the floor fellows, the connection to the ‘McGill network’,” Johnson said. “When someone needs to use the McGill support system it’s easier [if they live in residence] to hook them in to the system.”

Johnson went on to describe the hidden value that many don’t consider when choosing living accommodations for university.

“Tons of research shows that students who experience [university-operated] residences have better educational outcomes,” Johnson said. “They also have better personal development outcomes, such as comfort with diversity, conflict resolution, and greater leadership.”

Another difference between McGill residences and private ones lies in each option’s social environment.

Layal Awada, a first year McGill Arts student and resident at evo Sherbrooke, noted a difficulty in meeting people, partially due to its lack of occupancy.

Monnais explained that while Evo was at approximately 25 per cent occupancy at the moment, its goal was to be at 50 to 60 per cent by the end of January.

The building’s facilities are currently still undergoing constructions, which is another issue Awada has had so far.

“The annoying part is that the kitchen, pool, lounges, gym, and laundry aren’t done yet,” she said. “But I know when they’re done, it’s going to be worth it.”

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