Freedhome Development’s latest venture, a 65-suite apartment block at 316 Des Meurons Street, strives to leave a lasting impression with an art deco-inspired facade facing facade and the second-floor terrace adds to the aesthetic appeal. Le Market offers 1, 2, and 3-bedroom suites with contemporary fixtures and finishes and flexible layout options.
As we look to the future, it’s clear that the type of development that has worked in the past will no longer serve the needs of Winnipeg’s residents. Designing for the future requires bold action, innovative approaches, and a commitment to principles of green building, sustainable living, inclusivity and design excellence. Rooted in a proud history as part of the fabric of the city, Freedhome Developments are helping reimagine what is possible and lay the foundations for Winnipeg’s exciting future.
Coming off the successful completion of the 65 suite luxury rental apartment Le Market, the company has earned a strong reputation across Winnipeg for building walkable communities that promote healthy living and sustainability. President Jonathon Freed joins us to discuss their responsive approach to intensification, their sustainable building initiatives, and how they add vibrancy to mature neighbourhoods in which they build.
Q: Amid an exciting renewal, Winnipeg’s smart growth vision encourages densifying established communities. What was it about the St. Boniface neighbourhood that caught your attention when developing Le Market?
A: The historic St. Boniface neighbourhood has a certain cache to it and was a great opportunity to bring a vibrant project to a trendy area with Le Market. With Winnipeg’s goal to increase housing capacity it was important for us to find a location that could support intensification and add vibrancy to this mature neighbourhood.
St. Boniface is a walkable, complete community with a plethora of restaurants, cafes, and shops. There are numerous primary public transit routes that run through the area, and it’s within close proximity to the downtown core. There’s a tremendous need for new rental product in the area, and it’s important for us to identify areas for of potential growth, which can accommodate more density. The St. Boniface neighbourhood is on the cusp of major change and exciting renewal.
Q: With the combination of brick and steel Le Market makes a bold statement. What’s your approach to architecture and design?
A: Le Market was a great opportunity to bring add something architecturally unique to the area, paying homage to the historical elements of St. Boniface and its industrial past. I naturally gravitate to sites that have the potential to foster a pedestrian focus, as this aligns with our commitment to champion smart density.
At inception, we made the decision to widen and restore the existing city sidewalks to enhance the pedestrian experience, and create a safety buffer between moving traffic and people walking or cycling. It further served to incorporate a dedicated patio space for our future commercial tenant(s).
Working with Number TEN Architectural Group, it was important for us to make a grand statement. We wanted the building to punctuate the street and took inspiration from storied Art Deco architecture – thus, the prominent arches at street level, rising above extensive glazing, culminating in true sidewalk-focused architecture. The weathered steel, brick cladding, and terrace podium setback from the street, has created a real focal point for this prominent corner site, resulting in iconic building.
It is my belief that when you can create inspired, unique architecture and thoughtful streetscapes, you can truly begin to attract people and businesses back to the area.
Q: With changing demographics and housing preferences, what options are tenants looking for in today’s market?
A: Tenants are more selective than ever, but in our case, they are looking for urban neighbourhoods, complete communities that are walkable, with a mix of different uses, where every conceivable amenity is a stone’s throw from their new home.
A great thing about our developments is that they provide a lot of flexibility for different types of tenants in the market, from young professionals all the way to empty nesters that are downsizing from their existing single-family homes. We strive to cultivate comprehensive communities, offering something very appealing for people in each of these demographics.
We continually ask our tenants what they’re looking for in a one, two or three-bedroom unit, and since the pandemic, we’re finding that incorporating additional flex space that can be converted to a home office or a multitude other purposes, is something tenants are looking for. They can customize their living space to best suit their different interests and lifestyles.
Our buildings look as though they’re targeting a luxury market, but we maintain reasonable rents, well below market. We’re not interested in pushing push market rents to an unobtainable price. We understand that limited supply hinders the ability for people to find affordable housing. It’s important for us to supply great projects that are attainable in our market.
“In our commitment to adding to smart density we wanted Le Market’s exterior to include design enhancements that add to being in a walkable community.”
– Jonathon Freed
Q: How is establishing trust important to the tenant-first mentality approach?
A: It’s very important. The first thing we do is listen to our tenants. Communication is key to building strong relationships. It is tremendously important that residents feel safe and proud of where they live when they choose to live in a Freedhome Developments building.
The tenants come first. If you keep your tenants happy you’re going to retain them for a long time, so we are respectful and have an onsite manager to address any maintenance requests. When you can create an environment where there’s mutual respect, the tenants will truly care about where they live. They become part of the emerging community, and the whole environment becomes a positive place to be.
The exterior design of
Le Market seamlessly integrates the use of brick and corten steel that pay tribute to the neighbourhood’s
Le Market provides stunning interiors such as quartz countertops, backsplashes, floor-to-ceiling windows, and oversized primary bedrooms. The suite options include 1, 2 & 3 bedrooms with various layouts and contemporary fixtures and finishes.
Le Markets’ stylish lobby lounge is a welcoming first impression for residents and visitors alike.
Q: What eco-friendly and sustainable design features does Le Market have that improves the buildings functionality?
A: One feature we invest a lot of time and resources in is the acoustic design/ sound proofing. We utilize very robust assemblies to help impede sound transmission between units and public areas.
We are also very proud that Le Market received an Efficiency Manitoba Certified Energy Efficient Building designation. We are committed to developing projects that are environmentally friendly and energy efficient, and that exceed the province’s compliance requirements for energy performance.
We installed an enhanced mechanical system with premium air filtration that enhances air circulation and quality, motion activated LED lighting throughout the building, and high R-Value floor-to-ceiling windows that provide much coveted natural light. The building also has amenities such as EV charging stations, smart parcel locker system, state-of-the-art fitness centre, and smart security systems.
Q: Projects like Le Market add to smart growth intensification efforts. As a developer, is the need to add density by re-adapting under-utilized-used/undeveloped land a primary focus when approaching a new project?
A: Yes absolutely. As a company that focuses exclusively on infill, we have a shared vision that addresses the demand for new housing. With Freedhome Developments, we want to make an impact in our communities and that help foster a more efficient and sustainable future for everyone. We want to be a part of affordable housing developments and the transformation of not just Winnipeg, but Manitoba.
Having said that, we’re not interested in bringing cookie cutter projects to the market. We want to make sure we understand new trends in the marketplace, what tenants want in a rental property, and how we can create visually appealing mixed-use projects that bring an architectural edge to our neighbourhoods.
Toronto and Vancouver are cities that have a strong focus on cultivating mixed-use communities that enhance vibrancy in mature neighbourhoods.
There’s residential combined with mixed-used retail and commercial, and everyone is out walking, cycling, or taking rapid transit. There’s a pulse to their neighbourhoods, and we want to bring that same vibrancy and pulse to Winnipeg, by building developments that resonate with people.
Q: Your previous infill home on Waterloo Street has a timeless, yet modern look. What is the key to integrate infill homes into existing stock while maintaining the character of the neighbourhood?
A: The key is to make the home reflect the character of the neighbourhood. A lot of the homes in this neighbourhood were built in the early 1900s have certain design elements that we wanted to compliment with our infill home. Our infill on Waterloo Street originally had an existing bungalow on a corner lot on a prominent street. After we tore down the bungalow, we wanted to add a something that was contextual sensitive to the area and pays homage to the other homes in the neighbourhood. A lot of the older single-family existing housing stock in that area have peaked roofs so we wanted the design of this new infill home to compliment the size, scale, exterior finishes, and colours of the already existing styles of housing. With the Waterloo home, it was our intent to mix a modern interpretation of a Spanish-inspired home and bring some warmer elements into play. The style includes key elements of Spanish architecture including a peaked roof, exposed wooden beams, arched doorways and windows, and decorative detailing.
Q: Are you happy with the progress the city has made in developing areas of high density over the past few years?
A: We understand the City is working to improve the permitting process timelines and consistency, and recognize it’s an ongoing process involving a lot of collaboration amongst stakeholders, but there’s no denying it’s currently a slow and cumbersome process for developers. As a result, the time we spend waiting costs money, which is bad for us, and adds to the short supply of housing, which is bad for the community. For any building process to succeed, it requires developers and city councillors’ and local officials to work together to provide a broader diversity of housing options and a flexible/nimble approach to infill development. We do hear from the City that it’s a priority to increase density because we all know it’s significantly cheaper to build homes in existing neighbourhoods, but we know it’s a balancing act between leadership, and developers like us, demonstrating the benefits to the existing communities.
Q: While most support the need for new housing and increased urban density in general, some will routinely oppose specific local projects or building types. How do you meet the varied needs and interests of all parties involved?
A: It’s challenging for sure. Most people don’t like change, but change is inevitable. There will always be the NIMBYism (Not in my Backyard) mentality when you begin a new project. I think most people often become more open to development after learning how it benefits the community.
As a developer, we are proactive when collaborating with city officials and when we need to communicate plans to the public. There are neighbourhoods north of Le Market showing signs of intensification, so it shows that there are areas where local councillors fully support and encourage smart growth, as opposed to a neighbourhood that is more vocal in its opposition to it. We have been fortunate to work with a some city councillors and planners who have a YIMBY (Yes in my backyard) approach to intensification, and have been very supportive of building walkable, Live, Work, Play neighbourhoods because of the benefit they offer to communities and the people within them.
Q: What role does collaboration play in your building process?
A: We’re a very hands-on developer and are very involved in all aspects of the project life cycle. We’re not the type to hand off the project to a general contractor or consulting team. We collaborate through our design process with our architects, interior designers, consultants, and engineers, and work with our trades to ensure our buildings are being built to the highest possible standard. We don’t look to work with national contractors, we want to work with local companies that focus on the betterment of Winnipeg and Manitoba.
Q: The relationships between the developer, the residents and the community are vital to the sustainable philosophy. Is the team at Freedhome Developments ready to continue to lead the charge in Winnipeg?
Yes. We are excited to be able to contribute to neighbourhood revitalization and bring life and energy back into these mature communities. We have certainly built our capability, and our ability to take on larger projects. Earlier I said that the St. Boniface neighbourhood is on the cusp of major change, and we are looking forward to bringing two upcoming developments to the neighbourhood that will mirror Le Market’s architectural style and add more vibrancy to the St. Boniface neighbourhood. We will always have that shared vision that addresses the demand for new housing and making a positive impact in our communities that help create a more efficient and sustainable future for everyone.