6 minute read time
May 31, 2021

CBRE wasn’t a known quantity in Montreal when the company (then called CB Richard Ellis) opened an office there in May 1996 with a skeleton crew of four brokers.

Jacqueline Boutet, her daughter Michèle, and son-in-law Pierre Lacroix set up shop at 1010 Sherbrooke St. W., with Ramsay Lunan moving from CBRE’s Toronto headquarters to help launch the Montreal branch.

To amplify the brand, Lunan went around town asking property owners if he could put CBRE signs on their sites, despite not having an actual mandate with them. It was a bold plan—and it worked. “Some of the owners said OK,” Lunan recalls. Before long, after plenty of hustle by the team, CBRE signs were popping up all over town and the deals began to flow. “We quickly got recognized as a company to watch,” says Lunan.

A quarter-century later, as CBRE celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Montreal office opening, the company is very much still the one to watch in Quebec. The operation has grown from four sales professionals to a team of 95 supporting a range of brokerage, project management and valuation services, and there are additional offices in suburban Saint-Laurent and Quebec City.

Giving back to the community that helped the business expand has always been a core philosophy. CBRE Montreal has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for the Montreal Real Estate Foundation for Kids, the Hockey de rue tournament benefiting underprivileged kids, the JDRF Challenge, and the Angel Tree food drive for Montreal Children’s Hospital, and St. Mary’s Masters golf tournament, among other groups.

CBRE Montreal Celebrates 25 Years
Making it official: Jacqueline Boutet and Evan White sign the papers while Blake Hutcheson, Michèle Boutet and Pierre Lacroix look on.

‘We need to go global’

Back in the mid-90s, Jacqueline Boutet was running her own boutique brokerage when she received an information package from CB Commercial. Jacqueline was a pioneer in everything she did, says Michele, and she saw where the commercial real estate industry was headed. “My mother always had vision and she said everything is going global—we need to go global.”

She reached out to Evan White, who had co-founded CBRE’s fledgling operation in Toronto in 1983, to express interest in joining forces, and ended up meeting with White and CBRE Canada chief operating officer Blake Hutcheson to discuss the possibilities.

Before long, Jacqueline, Michèle and Lacroix had signed a contract and were hanging the CBRE shingle on a 7,000 sq. ft. space at 1010 Sherbrooke. “We knew it was the beginning of a great adventure,” Lacroix says. “It was very exciting—everything had to be built.”

They were joined by Lunan from Toronto. Adept at acquiring talent and sourcing opportunities, Lunan, who was born and raised in Montreal, approached past clients and developed new business in the office leasing and industrial sectors, eventually diversifying into investment, multifamily and retail.

CBRE’s Montreal office was open concept, which was regarded as unconventional at the time but was standard for CBRE then as it is today. “It was considered a promotion to have a closed office in those days,” Boutet notes. “For CBRE it was important to hear what people were discussing on the phone. It gave us additional knowledge of the market.””

But that open environment helped to quickly foster a culture of teamwork, respect, collaboration and communication. “And that’s what differentiated us from the competition,” Lunan says.

Expansion

The year 2005 was a big one for CBRE in Montreal, with the company moving to new downtown digs, at 2001 McGill College, while also expanding into the suburbs with the launch of an office in Saint-Laurent to better serve the industrial market.

The suburban office at 4030 Côte-Vertu was a basic affair — a 1,200 sq. ft. space that didn’t have a colour printer or a proper conference table. “We were pioneers again and were told, if you make money we’ll get you a real office,” Boutet recalls.

The following year CBRE acquired two companies with a local presence: Groupe Axival, a valuations firm, and Trammell Crow, a development, investment and property management firm. All three merged under one roof and expanded into 11,000 sq. ft. – more becoming of a real estate services company – at 333 Décarie.

In 2014 CBRE moved into Quebec City to establish a stronger presence in the provincial capital. The office opened with one broker, Stephane Hudon, who then brought Philippe Lambert on board.

Two years later, the downtown Montreal team moved to its present state-of-the-art location at 1250 René-Lévesque Ouest, part of CBRE’s industry-leading workplace transformation program. A suburban expansion to a larger office at 400 Sainte-Croix in Saint-Laurent in 2019 was also part of that program.

“The office has never stopped growing, year after year,” Lacroix notes. “This is thanks to our incredible clients who supported us and our culture of innovative leadership.”

Earlier this year, Ruth Fischer was named CBRE’s new Managing Director in Quebec, the first woman to lead a regional market for CBRE in Canada, marking the beginning of another chapter for the company in La Belle Province. “Since CBRE's start in Montreal, women have played a key role and brought tremendous value to the whole organization,” Michèle Boutet notes. “Today they represent a significant proportion of the leadership team and the office overall.”

“Our Quebec team has done remarkable things over the past 25 years, and I’m excited to be carrying on that tradition of excellence while working to take our organization to the next level,” says Fischer.

Big deals

CBRE Montreal has seen its share of big deals over the last 25 years, including some notable ones for the Day 1 crew.

For their part, Jacqueline and Michele Boutet and Lacroix helped Canada Lands secure a site for a new stadium for the Montreal Expos. Sadly, the team left town in 2004 for Washington. Lacroix brought WeWork to Canada in 2016, and in 2005 Lunan brokered the sale for General Motors of a 3.1 million sq. ft. property with a 900,000 sq. ft. industrial building in Boisbriand, Que. to a U.S.-based diversified developer.

There will be plenty more deals to come and Lunan anticipates more excitement in the near future because he knows that the company can’t afford to stand still. “The next 25 years belongs to a new generation. I’m so excited about what I see from them, and it’s needed,” he says. "Real estate services are more multi-faceted and sophisticated than ever before. More than anything else, the strong communication and cooperation that got us to this point will be essential going forward. Of course, we also need to keep having fun!”

Sign up today to get the latest blogs delivered straight to your inbox.

Stay in the know

Subscribe today and join hundreds of professionals who get the latest blogs delivered straight to their inbox.

Most Recent Insights

Investors Return in Force to Purchase Seniors Housing

Investors Return in Force to Purchase Seniors Housing

November 25, 2021
Advantage Insights
November 25, 2021
Advantage Magazine

Advantage Magazine

November 9, 2021
Advantage Insights
November 9, 2021
TikTok Your Botox. Health and Wellness Service Providers go all in on Social Media

TikTok Your Botox. Health and Wellness Service Providers go all in on Social Media

November 4, 2021
Advantage Insights
November 4, 2021