From the airport to the historic district, Novartis makes its post-pandemic move in Montreal

Novartis will shift its Canada headquarters from a non-descript location on the outskirts of Montreal to a new development in the city's historic district.(Pixabay)

Novartis has a new work model designed to let employees decide how they can best function in their roles—whether that's face-to-face, virtual or in some combination of the two.

But once the company’s employees in Canada get a look at their new digs in Old Montreal, they might want to reconsider.

On Tuesday, Montreal real estate developer Jesta unveiled plans for its new project in the city, including a move by Novartis to become the primary tenant of the development’s centerpiece, a seven-story office tower.

Amid horse-drawn carriages and cobblestone streets, on the outskirts of Old Montreal’s Parisian-style historic district full of museums, boutiques and sidewalk cafes, Novartis will plant its flag.

The Place Gare Viger urban campus will include a 177-room hotel, the first of the Hyatt Centric class to arrive in Canada, plus 330 rental apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail space. The development will surround a pedestrian courtyard, anchored by one of the city’s most iconic structures, Chateau Viger.

The developer aimed to "create a fully integrated urban campus for the future of work, live and play,” managing director Anthony O’Brien said in a statement. “We are ecstatic that our vision has resonated so strongly with the business community.”

It certainly did with Novartis, which saw a vivid departure from its current location, hard off an exit ramp of the six-lane Autoroute de Souvenir. Less than a kilometer to the north is Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.  

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Novartis has signed a 10-year lease to occupy its new space and many of its more than 1,000 employees in Canada will begin to move in next year.

“This location will position us closer to our partners, potential collaborators of all kinds, as well as new talent in a space that will be conducive to entrepreneurial thinking, inspiring innovation and co-creating solutions-oriented ideas,” Novartis Canada president Christian Macher said in a statement.  

Another attraction for Novartis was Place Gare Viger’s post-pandemic focus on health with touchless entries and indoor air movement. 

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Among pharmaceutical companies, Novartis has been among the most progressive in its post-pandemic approach, dubbing its plan “Choice With Responsibility.” The plan will allow some employees to work from home “for the foreseeable future,” a company spokesperson told Fierce Pharma last month.