Live, work and play: dreaming of and planning for tomorrow’s downtown

The St. Lawrence, Mont Royal, the Main, Sainte-Catherine St., Old Montréal and Chinatown are just some of the things that make downtown Montréal special. The city centre is a leading tourist destination, the economic driver of Quebec and its main centre of employment.

The Chamber knows that a strong, attractive downtown is good not just for Montréal and the metropolitan area, but also for all of Quebec. This is why it welcomed the Ville de Montréal’s decision to adopt a vision of what downtown will look like in 2030. This is an opportunity to lay the foundations for the downtown of tomorrow, a downtown where people want to live, study, work and play. Tomorrow’s downtown needs to be the economic driver of Quebec, while offering infrastructures and transportation that meet the needs of the residents, workers and tourists who will be part of the city in the coming years.

On November 3, the Chamber presented its brief to the Office de consultation publique de Montréal, mandated by the Ville de Montréal to hold public consultations. Focused on the city’s future needs, it sets out priorities the action plan should centre on.

Modern living environments and dynamic businesses

To achieve the demographic goals set by the Downtown Strategy – a 50% increase in the population of downtown by 2030 and 100% by 2050 – the living environment should be dynamic, modern and espouse the principles of live, work and play, in other words, offer a complete environment where people can live, work and unwind. To accomplish this, downtown needs to offer housing appropriate for families, businesses, public spaces, parks and cultural venues.

However, we must not forget that downtown is the province’s centre of economic activity. While a transformation is necessary in the coming years, its primary vocation should remain generating jobs and economic activity through its businesses, buyers and head offices. Montréal of the future could make its mark in light manufacturing by tapping into existing tools and its well-established culture of knowledge. Developing port activities, enhancing the strategic infrastructures of the Port of Montréal and Montréal-Trudeau Airport and adopting measures to improve the flow of people and merchandise are other efforts that will foster the city’s economic vitality now and in the future.

A commercial and tourism destination

The city is already a popular tourist destination. The Strategy appropriately suggests increasing access to the St. Lawrence, the jewel of the Island of Montréal. While these intentions are commendable, we need to make sure we do not neglect access to Mont Royal from downtown. The mountain is a natural signature for the city, enjoyed by residents and tourists. But there is no simple, inviting way to access the mountain from downtown. Creating structuring projects for access and redefining the connection between the mountain, the St. Lawrence and downtown will benefit the city.

The Chamber also supports the idea of making Sainte-Catherine St. a shopping destination. Obviously businesses in the neighbourhood should meet residents’ needs, but well-known stores have an undeniable cachet for attracting customers.

Having a strategy for downtown is great news. Now we need to make sure downtown attracts more businesses, stores and residents. The city needs to build on its strengths, particularly the knowledge economy, desirable geographical location and stimulating business environment. The Chamber’s recommendations will help inject vitality into downtown and consolidate Montréal’s position on the international scene.

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