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Montrealers returning to work after city takes hit amid COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Montrealers returning to work in downtown core at faster rate than other cities'
Montrealers returning to work in downtown core at faster rate than other cities
WATCH: Despite the growing daily caseload COVID-19 and the new threat of the Omicron variant, the number of workers heading back to the office is on the rise. Montreal ranks second in North America for pedestrian traffic downtown, and a majority of workers have returned to the office either full-time or in a hybrid manner. Tim Sargeant reports – Dec 2, 2021

Montrealers are pounding the downtown pavement once again, bringing a much-needed economic lift to a city that has been stifled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent survey by the Montreal Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (CCMM) reveals that 61 per cent of Montrealers have returned to work. Twenty-nine per cent are back full-time; 32 per cent part-time.

“You have very, very few people coming back more than three days a week,” Michel Leblanc, the CEO of the CCMM, told Global News.

A new database published by the real estate brokerage and consulting firm Avison Young illustrates that Montreal ranks among the top 10 cities in North America for office foot traffic, according to The Vitality Index.

Read more: Labour shortage forcing some Quebec stores to reduce operating hours

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Montreal suffered a lot during the pandemic as many employers closed their office doors to all employees for more than a year.

But as vaccinations started ramping up, downtown universities started opening up and the retail and hospitality sector in Montreal started seeing an increase in volume.

This has led to an economic recharge the city has desperately needed.

Some have concerns about the threat of the Omicron variant and whether the return to work could be compromised.

But Jean Laurin, the Montreal managing director of Avison Young, trusts that many employers have established strong sanitation measures and guidelines to welcome back employees in a safe manner.

“You want to make sure you respect the health guidelines so that you don’t put anybody at risk,” Laurin told Global News.

The commercial vacancy rate of Montreal remains at 15 per cent, according to Luciano D’Iorio, the Quebec regional president of CDNGLOBAL, a real estate brokerage and advisor firm, which remains higher than the pre-pandemic period.

But D’Iorio says investors are hedging their bets and buying commercial buildings at record levels despite the pandemic.

“They know that this is perhaps a blip and they’re looking at this in the long term and they’re investing in cities,” D’Iorio told Global News.

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Many just hope the return-to-work move isn’t a fragile shift and that the momentum will continue well into next year.

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