Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says she’s happy that work on Ste-Catherine Street is on schedule.
“The construction site is moving well, very fast and well, so I’m very pleased with this,” she told reporters during a tour of the site Tuesday morning.
The work is Phase 1 of a project to refurbish aging infrastructure along much of the city’s main shopping artery. Changes will include wider sidewalks, more trees and fewer lanes for traffic. The large construction site runs 400 metres from Robert-Bourassa Boulevard to Bleury Street.
“All efforts and energy are being put together to make sure that this construction site is being done well and fast,” the mayor said.
However, construction has been an inconvenience for residents because streets and sidewalks are closed. There are plans in place to help ease the disruptions. The city is offering $30,000 in compensation for those merchants who have lost business because of the construction, but not many have applied for it, the mayor adds.
“So far, there’s only one business owner who asked for the money,” said Plante.
That’s because some merchants say it’s too complicated to apply.
Emile Roux, head of the local Destination Centre-Ville business association, says city officials should “try to make (it) easier to fill the form to access all the financial help from the city.”
Others, like Thomas Lipovac, who runs operations at Antoine Laoun Opticians, argue that a lump sum payment isn’t fair because unless a business owner loses money due to the construction in the area, they won’t qualify for the cash. He says his business hasn’t lost significant cash, but it is still spending more money.
“We’re doing strategies and certain things so that we can retain our customers and have them come back to the store,” he explained. “I think that we should get compensated for doing all that work.”
But he and Roux admit that there are things businesses can do, some of which are in the works.
“We can organize activities, events to make sure that downtown Montreal remains attractive,” Roux told Global News.
The city is also taking steps to make it easier for pedestrians and visitors. For instance, city officials have hired information agents to patrol the construction zone and help people to navigate the maze.
Plante acknowledges that it is difficult.
“But then when we know what it’s going to look like in the future and how beneficial this street is going to be, not only for business owners but for everybody in Montreal,” she said. “It’s a good trade-off.”
Work is scheduled to end in November and then resume next summer before finally wrapping up by December 2020.