Montreal is giving itself another gift for its 375th birthday next year: a re-imagined Place Jacques Cartier.
At a cost of about $5 million, the plan will see new, standardized terraces installed, a special area for artists and artisans on De La Commune street and new electricity infrastructure in the square.
"Place Jacques-Cartier has not had a makeover since 1998." said city councillor Richard Bergeron.
"These improvements will give it back its reputation… and give it a missing aesthetic coherence."
365 days a year
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he wants to see the square used all year long.
Scheduling more festivals and activities, such as a Christmas market, will bring more foot traffic to the area even after terrace season has ended, he said.
The installation of a new electricity grid will make it easier to heat and light the square.
"It's important because I think that we have a great jewel and we're not using at its full potential," he said.
Artists and artisans will be moved to De La Commune Street. Special places will be reserved within the square itself for portraitists, caricaturists, and musicians.
Old Country inspiration
Looking to European cities, the plan includes the installation of terraces closer to the center of the square.
The new terraces will have a standardized look, and will be set about 7 meters from the restaurants.
Some restaurant owners have raised concerns that their waiters will find it difficult to get to their tables through passing pedestrians, but Coderre says that breaking a plate or two is no big deal.
"[This type of service] exists in lots of cities," he says.
The city will pay for the cost of building the new terraces. Restaurant owners will still be responsible for renting the space their terrace is on, but the rent prices will not change.
De La Commune to become pedestrian-only?
Coderre said he's also considering closing De La Commune street off to cars and making it pedestrian only.
"We can have a shared street, or a pedestrian street — but you cannot just work à la carte," says Coderre,
"It's kind of a natural thing... You cannot think about revitalizing old Montreal without thinking about the future of the old port.
"It's all about having fun"
Construction work on Place Jacques-Cartier will be gradual, and won't affect this summer's tourist season, the city said.
Coderre said believes any objections to the plan will disappear once it is completed.
Work is scheduled to be completed in April 2017, in time for the summer season.