New repair work will soon be necessary on Peel Street. Although merchants are looking favorably on the first sketches presented by the City, questions still remain unanswered.
“The devil is in the details, and we still miss them a lot,” summarizes Glenn Castanheira, general manager of the Commercial Development Corporation (SDC) Montreal downtown.
Among these missing details, he indicates that the detailed plans, as well as the measured dimensions, are not yet available. The work schedule and the mitigation measures that will be put in place are also question marks.
On Tuesday, the City announced investments of $108 million for the redesign of the street, which will include a bike path and widened sidewalks. In return, the artery would become one-way and would lose parking spaces.
Carlos Feirrera founder of the Feirreira cafe.
“We are embarrassed to take a position, specifies Mr. Castanheira. We are waiting to have this information, then go back to the merchants to find out their concerns, as well as possible solutions.
He recalls, however, that a pilot project carried out last summer on the artery, which proposed similar temporary facilities, had been conclusive.
Traders themselves have a few concerns that still remain unanswered, in particular on the size that their terraces may have once summer comes.
“We don’t have the dimensions! We are given a plan that has no scale or dimensions, and no one has been able to give them to me,” laments Alain Creton, president of the Peel Street merchants. To this end, he shows some of the messages he may have sent to try to obtain a response from the City.
The idea that the works could interfere with the holding of the Grand Prix also arouses their concern.
“The timetable for us is very important, but we don’t have an answer yet. We are confirmed that the work would begin and end in 2023, but the killing question is when will they start, ”wonders Mr. Castanheira.
For him, as for the merchants he met, it is essential that tourists can stroll through the artery during the week when the Formula 1 race will be held.
Major repair work had taken place on the artery in 2015, heavily hindering the street and its surroundings. However, due to a bankruptcy of the contractor, some repairs still remained to be carried out.
“On the aesthetic aspect, I think that the work that the City has done so far is always well done,” says Michel Leblanc, listing Sainte-Catherine streets, McGill College Avenue and Place des Festivals.
President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM), he is concerned, however, about the repercussions that the work will have on merchants, who remain vulnerable.
“Just on the principle of reopening the street, you have to be very sensitive to their situation. No matter the end result, just in the process, I think you have to take care of them,” he said.
Stuart Ashton, owner of McLean’s Pub.
He recalls that after the works of 2015 and the pandemic, this will be a third blow in a short time for them.
In addition to representing his neighbors and colleagues, Mr. Creton himself has been well established for 45 years, as the owner of the restaurant Chez Alexandre & Fils, located just south of rue de Maisonneuve.
In addition to the question of dimensions, which he reiterates throughout the discussion, he is rather optimistic about the redevelopments to come, believing that we must “live with the times”. As an example, he points to the already initiated redesign of Sainte-Catherine Street.
“There is a Montreal “look”, with the sidewalks and the amenities. We are going to suffer, the others have already suffered, but it is part of a whole. We cannot stay as we are. There is work that must be done, ”weights Mr. Creton.
On site, many are optimistic about the results of the redesign of the street, despite some lingering fears.
“I saw the project, and in the end, it should be very beautiful, but the moment when the work will be held is worrying”, believes Stuart Ashton, one of the owners of McLean’s Pub, located opposite Dorchester Square.
He is also worried about whether his bar will be able to benefit from subsidies to help him through this new ordeal. “After two years of covid, this is not good news, he is exasperated. It’s out of our control, we have to make do with what we have.”
Assistant manager at the Harry Rossen clothing store, Ali Baydoun, for his part, believes that in the long term, everything could be beneficial. “We’re going to love the idea. It will bring more tourists and pedestrians. And the more people who walk there, the more it gives the opportunity to have customers, “he anticipates.
Carlos Feirrera, for his part, is the founder of the eponymous café that has been present on the artery for 26 years.
“It will be the end for most of us,” he is alarmed, due to the disappearance of parking spaces and the inevitable roadworks.
He protests in particular against the creation of a cycle path, inappropriate according to him because of the customers who frequent the luxurious shops of the artery.
“It will be nice for pedestrians and bikes, but I don’t see many coming to eat here, or buy clothes on their bikes,” he quips.