Montreal to hold public consultations on empty storefronts

Click to play video 'Montreal wants to help local merchants succeed' Montreal wants to help local merchants succeed
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says she wants to figure out why businesses along St- Laurent, St-Denis and in the Mile End district are floundering, while merchants in other areas are succeeding. The city has launched a study to analyze the problem. Preliminary results are expected in the fall. Global's Brittany Henriques reports – Aug 19, 2019

The City of Montreal is reaching out to residents and business owners to help determine what can be done about a growing number of empty storefronts on commercial arteries.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced on Monday the city’s committee on economic, urban and housing development will hold public consultations on the issue next year.

“It has an impact on the whole community when there are empty places here and there,” she said.

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The Projet Montréal administration believes up to 15 per cent of storefronts on the city’s main streets are empty. Plante pointed to arteries such as St-Laurent Boulevard, Ste-Catherine Street and St-Denis Street as examples of where businesses are struggling.

Business owners in Montreal are facing several challenges including high rents and the rising popularity of online stores, according to the city.

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Simon Gaudreault, the senior director of national research for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says high property taxes and roadwork on commercial streets are also to blame.

“Property taxes are quite high in Montreal so that can have an impact when you have leases,” he said. “When it’s translated into the rent, it can scare off some small businesses.”

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Starting in September, the committee will conduct a study on empty storefronts and analyze the best solutions to address the issue. In December, it will present its findings and then public consultations will then be held in January 2020.

Plante, for her part, says she’s considering different measures to help local businesses stay afloat.

“I’m thinking about lowering the taxes like we did during the last budget, which is something that was asked for a very long time, so we decided, okay we hear you,” she said.

The city is also implementing measures that will help the situation on St-Denis Street. These include a new bike path, more pedestrian lights and displaying public art to encourage consumers to shop on the street.

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⁠— With files from Global News’ Brittany Henriques