'Pocket parks': Montreal hopes to entice workers, tourists downtown with colourful corners
In an alley, just off Peel and Ste-Catherine streets, there's fresh paint – a new mural on a brick canvas and colourful places to sit.
It's a 'pocket park,' said Glenn Castanheira, the head of Montreal-Centreville, a non-profit commercial development organization for the downtown area.
"We all know Montreal is well known for its alleys -- the green alleys in our neighbourhoods -- there are actually over 400 transformed alleys in the city, but none of them in downtown Montreal," he said.
This pocket park is one of two alleyways recently given a makeover by Tourism Montreal.
The centrepiece, the mural, is by artist Rafael Sottolichio.
"The main goal of public art is you occupy space in a different way than advertisement does. I think this main idea breaks down a sense of purpose for a place," he said.
Like most alleys, the spot was typically used for deliveries and garbage collection – and to some degree, it still is – but those behind this project are hoping residents, tourists and workers will now want to stop and spend some time there.
Around the corner, just off Stanley Street, there's already street art, but artist Diane Roe has added a mural on the ground and an open-air gallery with prints of her work on display.
"In French we have a saying, 'le beau attire le beau' [so] beauty attracts beauty, and I find when we make something beautiful, people want to keep it. They want to take care of it. They want to keep it clean," she said.
The plan is to convert 20 alleys downtown over the next five years.
While tourism this summer has been getting closer to pre-pandemic levels, it's estimated only 60 per cent of workers have gone back to the office, most for just part of the week.
That means less money for local merchants.
"This is another attraction for making sure people are in a very balanced quality of life when they come to work," said Yves Lalumière of Tourism Montreal. "So our goal is to put as many attributes as possible to bring people back one day, two days, three days."