Ivanhoe Cambridge, the City of Montreal, Cogir Real Estate and Pomerleau have just announced a new mixed-use apartment building called Haleco. Haleco is a development project that combines residential, commercial and office space in a new way that made it the winner of C40’s international Reinventing Cities competition. Plus, it will have an urban farm in its basement.

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Exterior of the Haleco complex

So what makes this project special? The Government of Canada contributed to the experimental space with a low-cost loan of $135 million, or $105 million in U.S. currency. That’s because Haleco aims to be a new type of development that creates sustainability, diversity and profitable real estate all in one project. The 338,438 square foot building will include 327 units and 40 community housing units built in cooperation with Bâtir son quartier, a community real estate developer.

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Members of the contributing teams digging dirt

Instead of housing projects, community housing is wrapped into the community in one location with other apartments, offices and shops. Offices take up the second and third floors. Further, retail space is on the ground floor and mezzanine level that will include a large open public market.

Members of the contributing teams in front of a Haleco sign

But get this: the basement will house an urban farm of 5,382 square feet. Montreal and other Canadian cities of late have blossomed as indoor urban farming locations. This boom is due to advances in technology for indoor-controlled farming of microgreens and other quick crops used by restaurants and sold in local markets. Locating an urban farm in the basement of a downtown building creates a potential solution to urban food deserts and democratizes access to fresh food. Such urban farms also create profitable and usable farmland out of a space and a climate that normally prove challenging for those pursuits.

A photo of more members contributing to the project at the site's grounds

Even better, the Haleco project is aiming for LEED Platinum certification with a design focused on energy efficiency. Haleco has an envelope that is separate from the interior building for thermal resistance and energy performance. In addition, the building will have an efficient electrical system integrated into renewable energy generation systems in the form of heat pumps on every floor of the building.

A divider showing Haleco's prospective build

The developers will offer a range of services that promote citizen involvement for residents and visitors of the complex. The services will help minimize the environmental impact of the building over time. These programs include, but are not limited to, educational programs on energy and water consumption, workshops about bike repair and on-site markets for local products.

A café within the building

Project designers say they were guided by the principles of regeneration and preservation of biodiversity. They will create new public green spaces around the building. A community garden, fruit trees, a pollinator garden and native and adapted plants will be located on 57% of the site’s land that is dedicated to revegetation.

The Government of Canada’s contribution in the form of the low-cost loan is intended to increase the supply of rental housing in the area while creating jobs and strengthening the local economy. The official groundbreaking ceremony was just completed, but construction on Haleco will last about two years. Rental spaces are scheduled to be available by the summer of 2024.

+ Ivanhoe Cambridge, Pomerleau, Cogir Real Estate

Images via Haleco