Saving the Montreal downtown core – emergency actions to help businesses survive

Montreal-downtown-Rue_McTavish-min

Saving the Montreal downtown core – Today, Monique Simard, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership, and Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, are unveiling an action plan to help businesses downtown. Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante requested that the plan be developed as part of the work being done by the advisory committee for Montreal’s economic recovery. The plan presents eight actions needed to help downtown businesses that are currently experiencing a major slowdown that is expected to last several months. 

Montreal empty retail
Saving the Montreal downtown core – The corner of Ste. Catherine and Atwater Ave. used to have a restaurant

An extraordinary situation that requires extraordinary measures
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the Ville de Montreal and the governments of Quebec and Canada have acted quickly and decisively, implementing various programs to provide support for companies. However, the situation in downtown Montreal remains worrisome. We must expect the slowdown caused by the suspension of non-essential activities to continue for several months, despite public authorities giving businesses the green light to gradually reopen. It will be quite a while before the approximately 310,000 office workers, the students, and the millions of tourists return to downtown Montreal.

Empty storefronts in Montreal
Two empty stores on Ste. Catherine Street W. The rate of vacant commercial space is between 10 to 15 per cent, according to the City of Montreal

“After examining the situation and consulting with stakeholders in the area, we are proposing eight actions that we believe are absolutely necessary to prevent the downtown commercial core from collapsing. Such a collapse would be devastating not only for the businesses involved but also for Montreal’s vitality and long-term growth. We believe that this plan will make it possible for a good number of stores to remain open. However, we are convinced that if we do not act quickly, it will be too late. Governments and municipal authorities will need to take a firm stance,” declared the action plan’s co-authors Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, and Monique Simard, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership.

Reduce operating costs and increase financial support for businesses
“Downtown businesses have been facing the repercussions of the crisis for over 12 weeks now. Losing revenue but still having to pay fixed costs like rent puts them in a very precarious position. The aim of the action plan is to reduce operating costs and increase their financial support. We believe that the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program must be reviewed and made more accessible. Additionally, we believe that it is critically important to provide direct support for downtown businesses by modifying the Canada Emergency Business Account,” emphasized Michel Leblanc. 

Clock tower beach in Old Port Montreal

Boost visitor numbers in the downtown area to optimal levels
“Since the summer events that downtown Montreal is famous for, such as festivals, sports matches and art shows, are all postponed or cancelled, we recommend that a real effort be made to change the perception of the situation downtown and offer residents a pleasant and inviting environment in compliance with health regulations. Among other things, we would like to close Sainte-Catherine Street to traffic from Atwater to Papineau for the whole summer, as well as a north-south artery, creating a pedestrian corridor to Old Montreal full of pleasant urban spaces with street furniture and occasional cultural events, while respecting the health regulations in effect during the pandemic,” said Monique Simard.

The action plan must be understood as one of the tools resulting from the committee’s work. It was created following consultations with many stakeholders from various sectors, and consists of eight actions based on three recommendations: 

  • Reduce operating costs for downtown businesses 
  • Increase financial support for downtown businesses
  • Boost visitors to the downtown core to optimal levels

Click here to view the full action plan.

About the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM)
With a network of over 8,000 members, the CCMM is active on two fronts: being the voice of the Montreal business community and delivering specialized services to businesses and their representatives. With its finger on the pulse of current events, it acts on issues that are decisive for the prosperity of the city’s businesses. With the support of the Acclr experts, the CCMM’s goal is to accelerate the creation and growth of businesses of all sizes, at home and around the world. 

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