Merchants in the Jean-Talon Market have a new ally as they fight the city’s plans to remove several parking spots from the area.
The merchants say the loss of the spaces will have a negative impact on business – and opposition at city hall agrees with them.
The city has announced plans to remove the spots in order to make space for a public square, but so far, merchants have collected 12,000 signatures on a petition opposing the move.
“It is a project that does not have social acceptance, it is not one were there was proper consultation done with the merchants. They were not heard as to the impact it's going to have both for accessibility and the future survival of the market,” said opposition leader Lionel Perez.
Lino Birri, whose family has operated in the market for 50 years and who started the petition, said city officials who back the move are out of touch with the market’s needs.
“I think that it says really clearly that people who make decisions about the market don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said. “What I said is what we need for our customers. I have 12,000 people thinking like me. It’s a lifetime in the market, serving three generations.”
The redevelopment project was launched to strengthen the link between Saint-Laurent Blvd. and the market “in order to contribute to the commercial vitality and the goodwill of the sector,” said Rosemont Petite-Patrie councillor Josée Bédard.
The borough said it consulted with partners throughout the development of the project and “taken care to listen to the recommendations of its partners” to ensure it accounted for the concerns and expectations of businesses and customers in the community.
Bédard touted the project on Shamrock Ave. and Place du Marche as a plan that will contribute to the “commercial vitality” of the neighbourhood.
“We believe in the potential of the Shamrock development from both a commercial and residential perspective, as it provides the entire neighborhood with a new gateway to the Jean-Talon Market and vice versa,” said Bédard in a news release.
"In recent years, development efforts have been concentrated east of the Jean-Talon Market, near the Henri-Julien entrance,” added Josée Tétrault, director of the Montreal Public Markets.
In 2017, a lot near the Casgrain entrance of the market was handed over to the city in order to revitalize this sector of the market by adding a public square.
“We are convinced that the revitalization of the Casgrain entrance has far more benefits than disadvantages,” said Tétrault, adding that the public markets corporation welcomes the plan.
The plan calls for the removal of 10 spots from the western portion of the market. Birri said those spots are used throughout the day by delivery trucks, as well as car-owning market-goers. He said shoppers with cars tend to spend more money and he fears losing business once the spaces are gone.
“Have we forgotten all the old people? All the handicapped people? Have we forgotten the families – one, two children – they need more than a little bag to come here,” he said.
The city has said it would add two spots on Casgrain that could be used by delivery trucks, but Birri said going from 10 to two would cause a backlog.
Several years ago, 50 underground parking spots were added when an SAQ was built in the area, but three years later, no elevator has been added. Merchants said the lack of an elevator keeps customers with reduced mobility, or who are picking up large orders, from using the lot.
Birri worries the city has a bigger plan for the market.
“Let us work. Let us do what we're here for. Or just tell us. Just to tell me, ‘We're expropriating you, we don't want you anymore. We don't want customers to come here,’” he said.
Birri said he is consulting with lawyers and is looking to file a court injunction against the plan.
Construction is slated to begin next week.