The Coworker is a new weekly series by MTLinTECH that spotlights one Montreal coworking space every Tuesday.
As La Gare‘s Christian Bélair took us through the Mile-End corner close to his space at 5333 ave Casgrain (just south of rue Saint Viateur), it became evident that this might be the most action-packed corner in Montreal’s startup community.
“There’s about 20,000 square feet per floor over 12 floors, there’s two buildings on Casgrain and three on de Gaspé, so just on this corner we have three times the space of Place Ville Marie,” said Bélair, referencing the prime downtown office building where fellow coworking space WeWork resides. “It’s amazing the number of freelancers we have here.”
And perhaps he’s right too.
The pavement spanning from Saint Viateur to Maguire is teeming with millenial-aged tech workers on any given day, some congregating around Frank & Oak’s pop-up store/coffee shop, others around the area’s many vegan restaurants and independent cafes.
On the first floor of 5333 Casgrain (#102) sits La Gare coworking space, with one of its large conference rooms facing the street where pedestrians pass by startups holding meetings.
A large desk for drop-in workers faces the front window where people can work in a hot desk fashion while the centre of the floor is a large open space with comfortable furniture to relax on. In the back portion of the space lie the dedicated desks. Various conference rooms and a kitchen round out the pristine, clean and professional-looking La Gare.
Finally, there lies one last area in the back with a separate entrance to outside. This will become La Gare’s brand new fab lab, which will likely open its doors to the public in January.
La Gare’s prices are competitive in Montreal’s coworking market, with a dedicated desk in the back portion going for $305 per month. That comes with 15 hours worth of conference room time.
There’s no set monthly price for drop-in workers. Rather, people can come in and work in one of the roughly 20-30 spots at the large front desk for $20 per day. Weekly or monthly prices can be set up with La Gare should someone desire this.
La Gare also offers its four conference rooms for up to $35 per hour, something that’s proved to be popular for startups that might not even rent space from La Gare, said Bélair.
La Gare was created around the same time its parent company was founded, Credo, which was started by Bélair, LP Maurice, Marie Eve Boisvert and Stephanie Brisson, now CEO at Ahoy! Berlin. Credo’s office sits above La Gare on the second floor of the building.
Bélair said at first the Credo group worked at coffee shops, which got old quite quickly.
When they saw La Gare’s space was available they pounced and poured in money to renovate it to its current shape. It’s worth noting La Gare has likely benefitted through several partnerships with big-named sponsors like Telus, Deloitte, Miller Thomson, Ubisoft, Investissement Quebec, Lightspeed, SonPlus Technologies and, somewhat strangely, Les Affaires newspaper.
Bélair said he’s upfront with prospective tenants that the space typically hosts around two to three events per week, which begin around 5 PM. It’s at this point that the space can get louder than usual.
But it’s those events that make La Gare a “family” experience for those who become members, he said.
“If you come to La Gare, you want to be part of the community,” Bélair told MTLinTECH. “You don’t just want to come nine to five and do your thing. You want to be involved, you want to come to events and you want to talk and do business with the other members, so it’s kind of this family culture here. It’s not too big or too small, we have our kitchen space where we do dinner together and it’s still professional.”
That professional aspect was something La Gare wanted to nail as well.
“If you’re bringing over colleagues or investors it looks professional here. Someone at the entrance will offer you a coffee and if you’re late for a meeting the person at the front desk can wait for you,” said Bélair.
Our research told us there exists between 20 and 25 coworking spaces in Montreal. But a subject that seemed to arise again and again with space owners was the notion of a saturated market, where too many players are vying for the same customers.
Bélair was candid in our chat.
“We’re all looking for the same startups and freelancers to rent our space, but also that’s also a great thing,” he said. “You have to innovate and distance yourself from the competition. You need to be better. The thing I see since we started last year is now there’s more quality in coworking.”
Inevitably some options may face hard times, while others will rise above.Bélair likes how the client will emerge the winner in this market. With more coworking options and more networks for startups to feed off of, he said it’s only going to be better for the renters.
“It means people have more and more spaces to start businesses for less money. It’s just easier to start a business with more coworking options. It’s kind of a sign of success when you can work with others.”
Have you read the rest of The Coworker series?
Should I stay or should I go? – August 30
Petite Nuwrk has grand visions – August 16
Esplanade creates a familial atmosphere – August 2
Le 402 is small but the price is nice – July 26