More than two years after it served its last beer, the shuttered Pioneer bar in the Pointe-Claire Village remains standing.
For how much longer, no one seems to know.
The ghostly building’s owner, Greg Koegl, plans to demolish the 119-year-old former watering hole and build luxury condos on the site, which includes the adjacent municipal parking lot the city agreed to sell.
Koegl said demolition of the Pioneer is imminent, but couldn’t specify an exact date.
The original plan was to knock the structure down last spring, followed by construction, with a spring 2021 delivery date for a mixed-use property of 14 condos and four ground-floor commercial spaces.
But the COVID-19 pandemic and sluggish condo sales has meant the project is behind schedule.
Koegl remains optimistic the project will come to fruition next year, despite unforeseen delays caused by the pandemic. A “50-per-cent sold” sign has hung on the outside wall of the Lakeshore Rd. landmark for months, but Koegl insists condo sales are trending in the right direction.
He also noted that all of the buyers, so far, are residents of the West Island or Montreal.
As of Tuesday, no condos were listed for sale on realtor.ca or the Engel & Volkers website, the real estate broker which has been handling sales for Le Charlebois.
Despite strong opposition to the condo project from some citizens, heritage and community groups, the city of Pointe-Claire approved the Pioneer demo and its replacement project in May 2019. Local citizens groups also went to court last year to have the city’s demolition permit overturned, but failed.
Pointe-Claire Mayor John Belvedere said the city is awaiting a report of an archaeological dig recently done around the exterior of the Pioneer.
The original structure was built in 1901 as the Hotel Charlebois. It later became the Hotel Pointe-Claire, then the Pioneer bar in the 1970s. It was also known as Clyde’s for a spell (1995-2011), before it became the Pioneer again. It also served as a live music venue.
Belvedere said he did not know when the vacant building, now enclosed by fencing, will be demolished.
Andrew Swidzinski, vice-president of thePointe-Claire Heritage Preservation Society,says he fears the demolition and ensuing construction of the condo project will pose major logistical challenges for local residents and merchants.
“The construction work and resulting congestion will put the businesses in a difficult position at the worst possible time,” he said. “If you include the other work presently going at the corner of Cartier Ave. and Lakeshore Rd., where they are building up the dépanneur with three floors, it will more than likely push other businesses out of business.”
Swidzinski also wonders how strong the local market is for luxury condos in that particular location.
Le Charlebois condos range from $819,000 to just over $1.7 million, not including taxes.
“You’re selling the most expensive condo units in the West Island which lack waterfront views and the heights of their main competitors, which are the penthouse units going up further to the east on Lakeshore in Pointe-Claire and Dorval,” he said.
“The commercial units in this market, I assume, will be very difficult to rent out because there is high vacancy. There is a lot of failure among small businesses right now.”
Dana Rios, a broker with Engel & Volkers, said there are mitigating circumstances with Le Charlebois condo sales, including a “vague” delivery date.
Rios said Le Charlebois also faces competition from future residential projects like the recently announced Cadillac Fairview project, a 4,000 to 5,000 unit project slated for construction next to the REM station and Fairview shopping centre.
“The price point .. the market in the West Island might not be there (because) the condos are not waterfront,” she said. “Real estate is a matter of timing, and maybe the timing for that specific project might not be the right one.”