Downtown Montreal looks nothing like normal -- and the city is leaning into it
MONTREAL -- Downtown Montreal got a makeover today: pop-up terrasses along Peel St., where people can watch a revolving cast of weird characters and other performances they'd never normally see on these streets.
It’s all in the hopes of drawing people downtown this weekend and through the rest of August, in a safely distanced way.
More than 50 groups are slated to perform, including a group called the Escouade Sanitaire who were entertaining patrons on Peel on Friday.
Clown-like figures inspired by painter Fernando Botero’s works have also been wandering downtown.
The reaction has been mixed, says one of those performers, but it tends to be strong either way.
“We stop a little, and do a little something and then we walk,” says Dominique Marier from Toxique Trottoir, which is running those performances.
Just as people tend to love to hate clowns, the Botero actors get “both reactions,” she shrugs.
“It's really for people to look at and see the city differently.”
That shouldn't be hard. The parking is now gone from Ste. Catherine St. Half of the street is closed to cars during the week, and cars aren’t allowed on weekends.
Between one thing and another, downtown definitely doesn’t have the same feel it used to.
“Coming downtown was like an event, but not anymore, really, at all,” said Theo Lagden, who had headed there on Friday to shop.
He wondered if people would be put off by their visits there and stop coming.
“The whole street is empty. It's like ghost city,” agrees Khalid Maskoui, who runs a tourist shop on Ste. Catherine.
But the new measures appear to be starting to work. Slowly, people have been coming back to the street, local restaurants reported.
But, like the restaurants, he says foot traffic seems to be gradually increasing. The city’s new parking discounts at some lots like Complexe Desjardins may be helping.
And even a few tourists could be found there on Friday, like one Ottawa woman who said she’d driven into Montreal.
“I think it'll take time and people are adapting,” she said, but Montreal is a “mainstay.”
“So in the long term I think it'll be okay,” she said.
Watch the video above to see street scenes from downtown this week.