Downtown Montreal needs a declaration of love. A real. A solid. With supporting evidence. Not a lukewarm or beige love, the lip declared. None. A burning love that moves mountains.
Published on February 28th
This Monday marks the end of the mandatory telework. Employees will be able to return to the office as determined by their employer. We already know that many companies will prefer a hybrid model that becomes the norm. Result: fewer workers will go to the city center daily, a drop of about 19 to 25%, according to a study by the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, which was revealed on Friday.
Of course, there will be consequences. Among other things, a decrease in public transport during rush hour and a decrease in expenditure of approximately 14% according to the same study.
That said, our center is not on life support. One just has to take a walk to see that despite the crisis, and despite the empty premises, it is still busy.
If he managed to keep his head above water during the crisis, it is because he is not solely dependent on his workers to survive. It is its mixed composition that has made it possible not to sink completely: the diversity of the companies installed there, the presence of university campuses, housing that continues to evolve. Yes, downtown lost 3.1% of its population during the pandemic, but it is still the one that has experienced the strongest demographic increase in the country, 24% since 2016. As for students and tourists, they will quietly return.
Our city center is therefore not in pain, but it still needs a shock treatment if we do not want the after-effects of the virus to turn into a long-lasting COVID-19.
Over the next few months, the city of Montreal will hold public consultations in connection with its strategic plan for downtown development, which extends to 2030.
That is really good. But for now, we need to think of a short-term plan to allow the city center to recover and prepare for the beautiful season. This is the message that has rightly been hammered in by the main actors in Montreal’s economic life, including the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Michel Leblanc.
On Friday, in the presence of the Minister responsible for the metropolis, Chantal Rouleau, he therefore presented a strategy for next year. And he challenged Quebec and Ottawa so that the two levels of government push the wheel. Without their participation, we will not succeed. We need to create a “wow” effect that will attract even more people to the streets of the metropolis in the coming months.
The Chamber of Commerce has identified a few avenues, including assistance to festivals, so they can plan their big comeback now.
In a study conducted by PwC, on the impact of the pandemic in the six main Canadian city centers, we also insist on the importance of greens and pedestrians as an intervention to relaunch the country’s city centers.
The Chamber of Commerce is also right to insist on the importance of agility. If the orange cones swarm and the subways are not clean and frequent, people will not come.
The Chamber of Commerce also invites workers to rediscover their city center in a different light, a bit like rekindling the flame of a sleeping couple. If the hybrid work allows them to go to the office less often, we suggest that they see the days when they want to be in the center, as a mini-business trip: lunch at a good restaurant, a show at the end of the day, a short shopping trip, they are invited to get the most out of what their city center has to offer. Once again, budgets are needed to be able to organize large activities that will create the event.
Ultimately, all of Quebec will benefit from the revitalization of downtown Montreal, which, it must be remembered, remains an economic lung for the entire province.