HER GROUP HAS CONVERTED INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS INTO SOME OF THE COOLEST OFFICES AROUND. THEY EVEN TURNED AN OLD CHURCH INTO A HIGH-END RESTAURANT AND RECEPTION VENUE. NOW, NATALIE VOLAND, PRESIDENT OF QUO VADIS, IS PREPARING TO LAUNCH ANOTHER UNIQUE REAL ESTATE CONCEPT IN SOUTHWEST MONTREAL. WE SAT DOWN WITH THIS PASSIONATE WOMAN, WHOSE BUSINESS MODEL HAS SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AT HEART.
With 18 ft. ceilings, exposed brick walls, oversize windows with a spectacular view of downtown Montreal, Natalie Voland’s office would make the envy of any CEO. Except, perhaps, for the regular—and surprisingly loud—chirping coming from the birds in the air conditioning unit.
“They’re my babies! They built their nest three years ago, and I haven’t used the AC since,” says the president of Gestion immobilière Quo Vadis Inc., with a laugh. That’s Natalie Voland in a nutshell: over 20 years of shaking things up in the real estate business, and never forgetting her humanity.
Who would have thought that the woman who graduated with a degree in social work from McGill University would one day find herself at the head of a company managing 1.5 million square feet of office space in Montreal?
The daughter of an urban planner from northeastern Germany, Natalie Voland was 5 years old when her family immigrated to Montreal. Upon completing university, she began building a solid career with non-profits—first with the YMCA, and then the Montreal General Hospital—when her father, Eginhard, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He suggested that his daughter take over the family business, and Natalie agreed to a trial period of 1 year.
“It wasn’t easy,” she acknowledges. “I was young, I was a woman, I was an Anglophone, and I was the owner’s daughter. There were so many challenges!”
BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO OLD BUILDINGS
It has been just over 20 years, and Voland has never regretted her decision (and her father still provides strategic advices). Quo Vadis now has 35 employees and a huge portfolio of office space in several heritage buildings. Complexe Dompark, where we met the 45-yearold president, occupies 500,000 square feet and has 120 tenants, most of whom operate small to mediumsized enterprises (or SMEs). Close by, also in the southwestern part of the city, Complexe Canal Lachine has nearly 250 tenants.
Recently, the company inaugurated Salon 1861, in Little Burgundy, transforming a former Sulpician church into a coworking space. The building also houses a sumptuous reception hall and acclaimed restaurant, Candide.
Whatever the project, the guiding principle remains the same: to protect and improve the building’s heritage. “We don’t view sustainable development as just another way to market our projects, or look good in our sales brochures,” says Voland. “We always ask ourselves if the building can be repurposed. If not, we ask if we can leave it in better shape than we found it. I have two daughters, and I want to do better for them. Our focus is not only on profits, it’s also on doing something that will benefit the surrounding neighbourhood and community.”