Stores and restaurants in downtown North Sydney are keen for a new ferry terminal and the business it's expected to bring.

They hope the new terminal includes an easier way for ferry passengers to get to the downtown core.

"With over 500,000-plus passengers moving across there every year, that's a lot of money that can be spent in the community," said Ron MacRae, president of the local business development association.

All those passengers and truck drivers are welcome at Mike Black's Black Spoon Bistro on Commercial Street.

"It's not only us that benefits, it's other stores too," Black said. "We need the access."

Currently, passengers need permission from a commissionaire to get through a locked gate. The federal rules that limit access were brought in last year for security reasons.

Many businesses want the new terminal to be built where the gate is now, which means passengers would just have to stroll out of the building and they would be on their way downtown.

Mark Eyking, the Liberal MP for the area, said access to the downtown is a key part of any ferry service.

"We see it in Vancouver and other areas where they have ferry services," said Eyking, who calls it "user-friendly."

Businesses will be able to formally express their views when Marine Atlantic begins consultations on terminal designs in the coming weeks.

The Crown corporation knows the development is a big deal for North Sydney.

"That facility will be a great asset to the town," said Tara Laing, spokeswoman for Marine Atlantic. "As part of the planning process we'll consult with stakeholders."

The federal government has earmarked $30 million for the project. Construction is expected to start next year and wrap up within three years.