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History
In 1914, in what was then a dramatic move, the Sun Life Assurance Company shifted its centre of operations from Montréal’s traditional financial district to the corner of Metcalfe Street and René-Lévesque Boulevard (formerly Dorchester), adjacent to Dorchester Square (formerly Dominion square).

Original Structure - 1918

The original structure, designed by the Toronto architectural firm of Darling & Pearson, was inaugurated in February 1918, its cornerstone having been laid in 1914. The seven-storey building was located on the site bounded by Metcalfe St. to the West, Dorchester Blvd. to the South and the Knox church to the East (between Mansfield and Metcalfe). The building occupied approximately two thirds of Dorchester Blvd. (between Metcalfe and Mansfield) and its main entrance faced Dominion Square. 

The Banking Hall was located on the ground floor and was accessible to the public. The executive offices were located on the 1st floor, (President’s office, boardroom, etc.), while the remaining administrative offices and functions were located between the 2nd and 6th floors. A state-of-the-art security vault was located in the 1st basement level, and mechanical rooms were located in the second basement level.

The building consists of a steel framework with exterior walls of Stanstead granite backed by brick and faced with terracotta. Terracotta tile construction was used extensively, in the form of a flat arch construction for the floor system as well as in the construction of all interior partitions.  The impressive Banking Hall employed very noble materials; Italian rose Tavernelle marble on the walls, Levanto marble on the counters, Syenite stone on the large Corinthian columns, black Belgian marble for column and wall bases, pink Tennessee marble on the floor, brass on all doors, railings and grills and gilded ornaments on the ceiling panelling of the mezzanine and on the terracotta capitals of the large columns.

First Expansion - 1926
During this time the company was expanding so rapidly that plans to extend the building were made almost immediately. The Knox church was demolished in 1923 and the first expansion project took place. Darling & Pearson designed the extension to the existing building up to Mansfield Street. Construction commenced in 1923 and the building was inaugurated on February 9, 1926. Darling & Pearson retained the same architectural style and used the same materials and building techniques employed in the original structure. The 135,000 sq.ft. building could accommodate between 1100 and 1300 people.
The Banking Hall located on the ground floor was now approximately 50% larger than in the original building. An employee cafeteria was located on the 7th floor. The Metcalfe Street entrance was now restricted for use by officials and the public, while the Mansfield Street entrance was used by staff.

Second Expansion - North Tower - 1933
The company’s good fortunes and expansion continued on during the 1920’s. This along with future projections resulted in a second and very
important expansion of the building. The Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada undertook the building of a 26-storey, 450-foot high tower to the North of its present site, starting construction in 1929 and completing it in 1933. Once again, the architects for this huge undertaking were Darling & Pearson (with associate architect A.J.C. Paine of Montréal). 

The completed structure (the new tower and original building) dominated  Dorchester Square, with its 60-foot tall Corinthian columns and imposing architecture, and became truly a Montréal landmark. The building provided a useable area of approximately 1,250,000 sq.ft. and was planned to accommodate up to 10,000 people. Darling & Pearson designed the new tower in the same classical style employed in the original building.
 
The building consists of a steel framework with exterior walls of Stanstead granite backed by brick and faced with terracotta, similar to the original structure. A deviation is in the construction of floor systems, whereby a concrete structure was employed with a 4-inch concrete topping allowing for the installation of an underfloor cell system for the distribution of electrical and telephone services. Terracotta tile construction was used extensively in the fireproofing of steel members and for the construction of all interior partitions. The noble materials found on the Ground floor of the original building were employed on the ground floor of the new tower structure: pink Tennessee marble on the walls and floors, black Belgian marble for wall bases, and brass on all doors, railings and grills. The building was originally conceived as a single tenant building - for all Sun Life employees based on the projection of 10,000 employees. The advent of automated machines greatly reduced the need for the great number of employees originally projected and, as a result, the interiors of the upper floors of the Sun Life Building were not finished in 1933. Eventually the building became a multi-tenant building with Sun Life being its principal tenant.


Among some of the more notable features and services in the building:
  • 3 basement levels in the new tower structure
  • cafeteria on the entire 6th floor able to accommodate 2500 people per sitting
  • an officers’ dining room and main boardroom on the 7th floor
  • a medical centre (hospital) on the 8th floor, complete with access to a roof terrace
  • a bowling alley on the 10th floor
  • a shooting range on floor 16A
  • a gymnasium on the 7th floor
  • pool rooms in the basement and 7th floor
  • porters on the passenger elevators
  • 11-foot high ceilings
  • 3 sous-sols dans la nouvelle tour
The building was air-conditioned in 1955. 

Retrofit - 1986 - 1999 
Between 1986 and 1999, Sun Life of Canada undertook a $150,000,000 retrofit of its building, in three distinct phases. By the early 1980’s, the Sun Life Building no longer conformed to present building codes and its building systems were somewhat antiquated. This, along with the multitude of newer high-rise buildings in the downtown core, made it almost impossible for the building to attract the prestigious tenants it had been accustomed to.

  • The retrofit addressed the following:
  • exterior window replacement
  • washing and re-pointing of exterior facade
  • replacement and upgrade of mechanical systems
  • upgrade of electrical systems and main electrical entry
  • installation of an emergency generator
  • renovation of office floors (tenant and Sun Life)
  • to meet current building codes and requirements:
  • fireproofing of building elements
  • installation of a sprinkler system
  • upgrade of exit stairs and paths
  • installation of a fire-alarm system
  • installation of a smoke evacuation system
  • elevator modernization
  • provision of a 150-car parking garage (in the 1st and 2nd basement levels)
  • renovation of the ground floor and Banking Hall
  • addition of exterior lighting

The 26-storey building has a gross leasable area of over 1 million square feet, floor sizes ranging from 20,000 to 70,000 square feet, 15 entrances, 23 passenger elevators and 2 freight elevators.

Passionate Caretaking 2000 - 2006
Between 2000 and 2006, Sun Life of Canada continued to invest millions to maintain and improve one of the most prestigious buildings in Montréal’s downtown core.

In 2001, Sun Life Assurances sold 50% of the Sun Life Building property to S.I.T.Q. National, a solely held subsidiary of Caisse de dépôt du Québec. In 2014, SITQ National sold their 50% of the property to 1155 Metcalfe Complex LP.

Bentall Kennedy LP were mandated by the building’s co-owners to manage the property and offer its tenants and over 4,000 of their employees an outstanding service.

Today, more than 100 people are dedicated to property maintenance and management in a unique integrated approach to achieve tenant satisfaction. Every day, they thrive in fulfilling the needs of the occupants. A recent survey conducted showed that 91% of the tenants are very satisfied with the overall service they receive.