More and more, younger people are sadly being priced out of home ownership while baby boomers are retiring and downsizing, and this evolving market is creating more renters. The result is a more competitive real estate situation, with an increased demand for rental accommodation but not enough supply.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) annual rental market report for 2018 noted that the “overall vacancy rate for rental apartments in Canada fell to 2.4 percent,” and Ontario’s rate, the most populated province, is among the lowest nationwide at 1.8 percent.
In this fast-paced environment of low real estate inventory, Ottawa-headquartered Lépine Corporation is seizing the opportunity to do what this family-run company has been doing so well for nearly forty years: build.
Guided by vision
The firm is run by Francis Lépine. Real estate development and management is in his blood. Francis learned everything about the industry from an early age as his father René Lépine, Sr. founded Elpine Construction in 1952. This would go on to become Eastern Canada’s largest real estate development company for a time, famed for building the Montreal landmark Olympic Village.
At Lépine Corporation, Francis is the visionary and developer, with over 40 newly built concrete buildings to his personal track record. The corporation specializes in building high-end, multi-tenant apartment buildings, and its specialization in this sector of the Ottawa housing market has served the company well over the past two decades. The team has completed dozens of projects, which have generated thousands of new residential suites.
Investing in community
These residences reflect the Lépine team’s approach to building and to business. The developments they create are not simply well-appointed, standalone suites; they are investments in the broader community. “Lépine believes that when you build quality you build a solid investment,” reads company literature, and the apartments in the company’s portfolio reflect this belief. They are purposefully-designed, warm and welcoming, and enable residents to enjoy a luxurious quality of life while enjoying their neighbourhoods and communities to the fullest.
Lépine builds apartments to stand the test of time and to contribute to the fabric of the community in positive ways. Francis’ goal is to build “for generations to come,” and his company’s apartments “are made to last centuries,” he shares. Unsurprisingly, quality and safety are fundamental to the construction process and of utmost importance to Francis and the entire Lépine team. The company has built its reputation on specializing in the premium, resort-styled, multi-family apartment sector, and the 30-plus first-class properties – comprising more than 10 million square feet of residential living space – under its belt are a testament to its dedication and commitment.
To this end, Lépine’s apartments, which range in size from 700 to over 2000 square feet, are built solidly to say the least, with thick concrete that is well insulated for energy efficiency and soundproofing and top-notch electromechanical and HVAC systems for reliability, building and occupant health, and reduced maintenance. They are also spectacularly well-appointed, with details like high ceilings, panoramic views, hardwood floors, natural maple or oak cabinets, granite counters, LED lighting, and more, while building amenities include gyms, terraces with barbecues, and guest suites for visiting friends or family.
Imagination and innovation
Though the firm previously worked in the condominium sector, it built its last condo in 2005, preferring instead to carve out a different path into the future. Francis observed that both the younger generations and the baby boomers were increasingly seeking out apartment living, looking to escape the headaches that can come with ownership without sacrificing on quality of lifestyle. The existing rental market, however, didn’t necessarily offer the breadth of amenities or the attention to detail that are Lépine’s calling cards.
To meet this growing need, “Francis decided to redesign and bring apartment rentals to the 21st century,” said his sister Francesca Lépine-Willson in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen. This meant seeing the apartments through a prospective tenant’s eyes, and building in the features, finishes and flourishes that would take the spaces to the next level.
It starts from the literal ground up, whereby the company not only designs efficient buildings; it also builds them efficiently. Through its decades of experience, Lépine Corporation has developed and finessed innovations in construction methods that save time and money during the build. The buildings’ exterior panels, for example, are made of massive slabs ranging from five to ten tonnes in weight and traditionally, these are lifted into place and held via crane while being welded to the building’s frame. The process would take about half an hour, during which time the crane was out of action as far as completing other work on the site.
Instead, what the company does now is have its contractors bolt the panels to the building prior to welding, freeing the crane to be used to retrieve another panel. The crane is back with the next panel by the time the weld is complete, resulting in a seamless and efficient workflow with no wasted downtime. The money thus saved on construction costs can then be passed on to tenants in the form of additional, premium features.
Building for the future
New apartment projects are in the pipeline for Orléans and Stittsville, and a second building in Kanata is planned for construction in the next few years. Les Terrasses Francesca on Vanier Parkway was recently completed, with nearby shopping at the Trainyards and St. Laurent Shopping Centre. Residents of this development are just a short walk from Strathcona Park, the Rideau River, and downtown. The building itself boasts features such as 24/7 door security, a reception room with full kitchen, underground parking and free guest parking, a saltwater pool, a fitness centre, a yoga studio, and a lounge with pool table and large-screen TV. A beautiful baby grand piano greets guests in the foyer.
Meanwhile, low-rise Johanne’s Court in Carleton Place has now opened its first phase, with the second phase ready for occupancy in the spring of next year. Each building will have fifty suites with underground parking, and together, they will form a central courtyard with a pond. The Carleton Place setting is ideal for those seeking a small-town atmosphere with an easy commute to the city.
Next is the Saint Émilion development, a mere two blocks from retail and entertainment complex Kanata Centrum in Kanata Lakes. This 154-unit property, to open in October, is surrounded by a garden-like space and is just minutes from golf and other activities.
And in Barrhaven, eighteen-storey Howard Grant Terrace is slated to open in spring 2021 but has already begun leasing a range of suite sizes to new tenants.
Keeping it in the family
As the company’s comprehensive website describes, “The family’s principles of uncompromising quality and investment in the future of real estate have been their guiding compass while charting a new course for the homebuilding industry.” One truly has a sense that the Lépine family is creating buildings to a living standard that they would want for themselves. This firm is a family affair. Francis’s son and daughters as well as other family members all play an active role in the company’s success.
Most of the company’s buildings are also named after family members. The new Saint Émilion development is named after Francis’ son Émile; William’s Court, a five-building complex near the Kanata Centrum Shopping Centre, is named after his son William; and Johanne’s Court is named after his wife.
Undoubtedly, Lépine Corporation’s family legacy seems assured for another generation as the company fills a small but growing niche in the upscale end of the rental market. The Ottawa-area real estate market remains red hot, and Lépine’s offerings provide an alternative to ownership while sacrificing nothing. The company is making its mark on the city skyline by creating homes, lifestyle, and community – and underpinning it all with rich experience and family values.