Many store owners along St. Denis St. are blaming the city for another drawn out infrastructure project they say is affecting their businesses, but one borough coouncillor wants to rethink the famous street’s personality.

Once considered among the trendiest streets in the city known for both its shops and its terrasses, St. Denis is now full of orange cones and many closed shops.

“There are a lot less clients everywhere, especially in January or February,” said Laura-Emilie Harnois, who works at Ocean surf shop.

Antique Puces Libres, an antiques store that’s been open on St. Denis for 45 years, is now closing for good.

“We didn't make money last year, and this year will be worse,” said owner Jean-Claude Taquet.

Perfect storm

St. Denis St. has been experiencing a perfect storm of troubles.

Water pipes need to be replaced, causing eight months of ripped up streets. Others say high parking rates and poor snow removal are to blame.

“The media was constantly bringing up all the problems here,” said Taquet.

Add to that, the taxes in the area continue to rise.

“So people here are not able to rent their space, to sell their space, and there's a tremendous amount of abandoned space, I think a third of buildings here are empty when you walk up St. Denis,” said Bianca Barbucci of the Quebec Retail Council.

According to the retail council, 4,000 of Quebec's 47,000 stores have closed their doors in the last seven years.

With more online sales and a slow economy, they predict there will likely be even more store closures this year.

“If people are not able to sustain their business, they will be closing,” said Barbucci.

Rethink needed

The Plateau Mont-Royal borough is working to get tax credits for merchants affected by construction, and promising they'll be doing more promotional events on St Denis, including an ice festival next month.

“Well it's still a very nice place to walk around there's a lot of coffee shops and restaurants, even if there’s a lot closed, it's still a good place to come,” said Laurie Belanger, manager of Pierres d’Ailleurs.

"It's still alive, but it's not in good health," said borough councillor Marie Plourde.

St. Denis may still have unique shops and a unique feel, but these businesses may have to shift to catering more to locals and less to tourists, said Plourde, who notes that now that terrasses have popped up all over the city, St. Denis is no longer the go-to destination for an outdoor drink or meal, especially because they are set against a heavily-trafficked street.

“Maybe this is not the place for big terrasses. We may need to rethink the personality of St. Denis St. This is what we need to do right now, because believe me, it's almost midnight,” said Plourde, “Obviously there was a problem with the street.”