The City of Montreal will hear from concerned business owners and residents this week over the growing number of empty storefronts on major streets.
The public consultations, which begin Tuesday night, will specifically look at the situation on commercial arteries, including St-Laurent Boulevard, Ste-Catherine Street and St-Denis Street.
A recent assessment by the city’s committee on economic, urban and housing development shows that up to 15 per cent of storefronts are empty — and the average vacancy rate hasn’t changed significantly since 2015.
The situation is particularly dire on St-Denis Street and Ste-Catherine Street East, where businesses are struggling to stay afloat. The vacancy rates have sharply increased to 26 per cent on both strips over the past four years, according to the study.
Merchants in Montreal face several challenges that keep their businesses from thriving, according to the city. This includes rising commercial rents and the growing popularity of online shopping among consumers.
In its findings, the committee also reports that retailers have found the growing number of empty storefronts has a negative effect on businesses since it can create a negative perception of the area.
Construction projects are also considered “a major nuisance” that hinder customer traffic.
The committee said retailers and business owners to whom it spoke proposed possible solutions, including making rents more affordable, limiting the impact of public works and creating a registry of vacant premises.
The committee will hold three consultations at the Lucien-Saulnier building on Notre-Dame Street on Tuesday and Wednesday. It will also hold additional public sessions on Jan. 16 and 21, if necessary.
Some of Montreal’s boroughs are also holding their own local consultations until Jan. 29.
Business owners and citizens who want to submit a brief or opinion can also do so in writing by emailing the committee by Jan. 20.
— With files from the Canadian Press