Landlords With Gentrifier History Are Behind Le Cagibi’s Rent Hike

The café offered to take a 46 percent rent increase, but it “was absolutely not enough”

Over the weekend, the Montreal Gazette sunk its teeth into the impending closure and move of Mile End coffee and vegetarian food staple Le Cagibi, revealing that the new owners of the building wanted to double the café’s rent.

Last week, the long-running coffee shop on St-Viateur and St-Laurent announced that it would be moving to a new location in Little Italy after a rent hike from a new building owner.

The Gazette’s T’cha Dunlevy reports that café’s building changed hands in 2017, leading to a proposed rent increase from $3,417 to $7,500 per month (the café could also have opted to pay $5,000 per month to retain half its space, as it is split across two adjoining rooms). The café proposed $5,000 per month for the whole space, and was told that amount “was absolutely not enough”. While such an increase would not be possible for a residential property, commercial properties in Montreal aren’t protected under rent control laws.

Dunlevy then offers a deeper dive into rent increases on St-Viateur Street and beyond, revealing that Jeremy Kornbluth and Brandon Shiller are the new owners of Le Cagibi’s building. If the Shiller name looks familiar, it’s because Brandon Shiller’s father is prominent realtor Stephen Shiller, who is partnered with Danny Lavy in major real estate firm Shiller Lavy.

According to Dunlevy and city documents on building ownership, the two partnerships have purchased a number of properties on the St-Viateur strip where old businesses have departed and shiny new replacements have come in — the former Boulangerie Clarke (on Clark/St-Viateur) is a Shiller Lavy property, and that bakery closed in 2015 (although rumours that it would be replaced by a Starbucks never came to fruition — it’s a sushi restaurant now). Shiller Lavy also own the building at 268 St-Viateur that brought sportswear giant Lululemon to the neighbourhood (Kornbluth and Brandon Shiller owned it before Shiller Lavy took over).

New-ish pub Bishop and Bagg on St-Viateur is also a Shiller Lavy property, and so was short-lived Mexican restaurant Socialito across the street, which has been vacant for more than a year, bearing a Shiller Lavy For Lease sign in its window.

The former Socialito
 Google Maps

Further afield, Kornbluth and Brandon Shiller also own the Jean-Talon Market building where a controversial Starbucks opened in 2015, prompting complaints of gentrification until it closed late last year. Meanwhile Shiller Lavy own multiple properties on Laurier Avenue which have changed form over the years — most notably, the building at 381 Laurier which housed Laurier BBQ, the failed attempt to bring star chef Gordon Ramsay to Montreal.

So while Le Cagibi is not under Shiller Lavy, it’s accurate to say that there’s a family connection — and both partnerships have been the landlords at hand in various so-called gentrifying developments, from closures (Boulangerie Clarke, Cagibi) to new arrivals (Jean-Talon Starbucks, Lululemon), adding intrigue to the Cagibi situation.

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