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Critics say 'nothing new' in Montreal's $1.8B plan to revitalize downtown core


The City of Montreal is promising a cleaner, more accessible downtown core with a new 10-year plan to bring life back to the area.

The $1.8-billion project was presented by Mayor Valerie Plante Tuesday, with a goal to keep downtown culturally vibrant and economically attractive.

The city said the downtown core is rebounding relatively well post-pandemic, but there are challenges that are not unique to Montreal.

The issues afflicting the area are happening internationally, Plante said, including lower occupancy rates in office buildings, a struggling retail sector, and social issues.

"Downtown is the economic and cultural heart of Quebec," said Plante in a news release.

The city's challenge amid these issues, she said, is "to rethink the long-term development of the downtown area and implement structuring initiatives to strengthen its attractiveness and resilience."

The city wants to create new living spaces and green spaces, improve mobility and cleanliness and focus on highlighting the unique character of different neighbourhoods within the core, like the Latin Quarter, the Village and Chinatown.


The opposition points out there's not much new in this strategy and says 10 years is far too slow for a situation that is urgent.

"There's nothing new in terms of [construction site management], in terms of help towards the business owners in terms of actions in terms of security," said Julien Henault-Ratelle, the opposition critic for economic development.

There's also no mention in the plan of how to make streets safer. As the head of Montréal centre-ville points out homelessness isn't addressed either.

"It is perhaps the number one threat for our downtown … the homelessness situation, and the opioid crisis we're seeing in downtown," said Glenn Castanheira, general manager of Montreal Centre-Ville.

"Mind you, this is not exclusive to downtown. We've seen this happen in Vancouver and when I speak with my colleagues across Canada their number one issue is cohabitation with the homeless population."

It's also a concern shared by Henault-Ratelle.

"If you talk to different business owners, if you talk to different restaurants in The Village, they all don't feel safe and sadly the results of that is that Montrealers decide to go somewhere else, to Royalmount, to Longueuil, to Laval," he said.

The City of Montreal wants to emphasize the unique character of downtown neighbourhoods (image: City of Montreal)


The city outlined its three top priorities as follows:

Enhancing neighbourhood identity:

  • Reinforcing the personality of neighbourhoods with distinctive new street furniture, heritage enhancements and public art circuits
  • Celebrating downtown's northern character by creating a unique winter experience in the heart of the city
  • Designating the Latin Quarter as a "Quartier de la francophonie," creating a 24-hour sector and carrying out major development projects, including Îlot Voyageur and Parc Émilie-Gamelin

Creating new, vibrant, mixed-use neighbourhoods

  • Creating two new residential neighbourhoods in Les Faubourgs and Bridge-Bonaventure, with the potential to create over 15,000 housing units
  • Consolidating downtown's position in the technology, health care and cultural and creative industries
  • Prioritizing investment in existing buildings to reverse rising vacancy rates, particularly at the former Royal Victoria Hospital and the Îlot Voyageur

Improving mobility, cleanliness and creating green routes

  • Accelerating the development of phase 3 of the Quartier international
  • Creating better links between neighbourhoods and setting up a pedestrian-priority zone in Old Montreal
  • Improving cleanliness of public spaces, building maintenance and management of works.

The City of Montreal is planning to revitalize the downtown core (photo: Mathieu Sparks / City of Montreal)

With files from CTV News Montreal's Maya Johnson and Angela Mackenzie Top Stories

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