The Cree Nation of Quebec is getting into the Montreal real estate development game, unveiling plans to build a 26-floor high-rise with condos, rental and commercial space that is steeped in symbolism.
The Odea Montreal has been designed with a massive stylized canoe shape on its south-facing side and has other features to highlight Cree culture, language and a connection to land and water, according to Derrick Neeposh, the president of Creeco, the investment arm of the Cree Nation government and the parent company of Eeyou Eenou Realty Properties Inc.
The building will be located in Old Montreal on Robert Bourassa Boulevard at the corner of Ottawa Street, right at one of the main entrances to downtown.
“The thought was always … we’re spending so much money in the South on lawyers, consultants, you name it. … we wanted to reverse that and say, ‘It’s time for us to create the wealth in the South for the benefit of the North,'” said Neeposh.
It’s time for us to create wealth in the South for the benefit of the North.– Derrick Neeposh, president of Creeco
The $100-million project includes 435 residential units, 264 rentals and 171 high-end condominiums units for sale. It also includes more than 10,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, green space, two rooftop pools and a sky lounge, according to a release.
The irony of Odea Montreal being located on a street named after the late Robert Bourassa, former Quebec premier and a foe of the Cree, is not lost on Neeposh.
“We had no say in naming the street Robert Bourassa Boulevard,” he said.
Bourassa was Quebec premier in the 1970s and was behind a massive and unannounced hydroelectric development in Cree territory. The Cree took Bourassa’s government to court over the development and won, forcing a negotiated settlement that led to the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in 1975.
That treaty paved the way for the Cree Nation to become the economic powerhouse it is today.
The Cree have owned the land where Odea Montreal will go since 1995, when the address was 277 Duke Street, before an elevated section of the Bonaventure highway was removed and the street renamed after Bourassa.
“I am proud to see my nation’s contribution to the Montreal skyline with an innovative and forward-thinking project,” said Cree Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty, adding the venture offers endless opportunities for additional investment.
The meaning of the canoe
The design of the building comes from a collaboration between architectural firm Lemay and Indigenous architect Douglas Cardinal, who said that when he first visited the site, he had a strong vision of a canoe.
“The canoe signifies the incredibly creative technology that allowed communication, trade and commerce, not only for the Indigenous peoples in Turtle Island, but as it was adopted by the European (Quebecois) voyageurs,” said Cardinal in an email. The canoe “became the ultimate vehicle of the times to expand their influence across the land.”
Cardinal is the architect behind the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., and has worked in the past with Cree. He designed the Aanischaaukamikw Cree cultural institute in Oujé-Bougoumou and helped design the village of Oujé-Bougoumou.
Creeco and Eeyou Eenou Realty Properties Inc. are partnering with Cogir, a well-established real estate developer in the province.
“We are proud and honoured to work with the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee on a project that will become one of Montreal’s cultural and architectural landmarks,” said Mathieu Duguay, president and CEO of Cogir Real Estate, in a release.
Site preparation for construction is already underway and Odea Montreal is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2024. Pre-sales of condominiums are expected to begin in March 2022.