Proposals would close all of downtown Ste. Catherine to cars along with one north-south street

MONTREAL — Montrealers already knew summer wouldn’t look the same as usual this year, but now it’s becoming clear just how different it will be: a new proposal seeks to make six full kilometres of Ste. Catherine St. pedestrian-only.

A joint plan by Quartier des Spectacles and the Montreal Chamber of Commerce would close the street from Papineau all the way to Atwater. The idea is to allow people to walk around in the downtown core without crowding each other too closely.

Those groups say it will also allow cultural programming to happen this summer—spread out.

“We have thought out our programming for the summer at the Quartier des Spectacles,” says Monique Simard, the chair of the Quartier. “We can extend that programming to a wider territory.”

There are a lot of rules to follow, she says, and there are also now plenty of businesses that are shuttered. But all of that can be an opportunity.

“Unfortunately, there are storefronts that are closed,” she said. “So you can use these storefronts to have artists work in them.” 

The city is also planning a north-south corridor, from Sherbrooke St. to the St. Lawrence River, that will be also closed to traffic. It hasn’t chosen the street yet, but St. Laurent is a likely candidate. 

Some local businesses are happy about the idea. 

“People will walk here [to] walk the streets,” said one matmaker with a shop on St. Laurent. “It could be nice.” 

Others, though, say they’re less than thrilled.

“I think they should have talked to all business owners, all businesses, about this kind of thing, and get a consensus,” said Jason Hart, the manager of Steve’s Music Store on Ste. Catherine.

Steve’s Music just reopened a week and a half ago, and on top of that, it had to deal with looting by “a bunch of opportunists,” said Hart, after the anti-racism protest on Sunday.

Closing the street to car traffic will drive away business, Hart says.

But those behind the idea say parking shouldn’t be a problem. They’re trying to also create a plan for free parking spots.

“We’re very realistic about that,” said Simard of the Quartier des Spectacles.

The full proposal is slated to be submitted Friday, and if approved, it would take effect almost immediately, with Ste. Catherine closed starting mid-June.

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