Montreal

Notre-Dame Street will open back up to vehicles after complaints from Sud-Ouest merchants

The temporary pedestrian zone has been cancelled but restaurants on the street will be allowed to keep their terrasses if they have put them up already.

Temporary pedestrian zone cancelled, restaurants on the street allowed to keep terrasses

The city had partially closed the street to traffic earlier this week, in order to make way for pedestrians and cyclists. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

The Sud-Ouest borough says it is reversing course on a controversial, temporary pedestrian corridor designed to reduce traffic on a section of Notre-Dame Street.

On Tuesday, the eastbound lane of Notre-Dame Street between Vinet and Workman streets was closed and parking spots were eliminated so the city could create an active mobility corridor — an area reserved for pedestrians and cyclists in order to make physical distancing easier. 

But late Thursday, Sud-Ouest Borough Mayor Benoit Dorais announced the street would be put back the way it was. 

In a Facebook post, Dorais said the project had been welcomed by the SDC les Quartiers du Canal, a local merchants association, but that he later realized the opinion wasn't shared by merchants on the street. 

"It seems the installation was not wanted by local merchants and we have therefore decided to remove the temporary installations," Dorais wrote. 

Dorais said the borough would work on other ways of supporting businesses struggling because of COVID-19. He also said restaurants on the street would be allowed to keep their terrasses. 

The merchants association recommended the city take down the active mobility corridor in an open letter published on Thursday, acknowledging several business owners were unhappy with the decision. 

Sud-Ouest city councillor Craig Sauvé told CBC that the borough worked very closely with the SDC, which was initially "enthusiastic" about the proposal, but when it became clear that not all merchants were on the same page, they had to backtrack.

"I think it's important in politics and city administration to listen and to hear people out," Sauvé said.

He said it would be easy and inexpensive to remove the infrastructure on Notre-Dame, and work had already begun on Friday.

David McMillan, left, pictured with Joe Beef co-owner Fred Morin. (Penguin Random House)

Joe Beef owner David McMillan was vocal in his opposition earlier this week, and said he was happy when he heard the plan was called off. 

On Friday, he said his issues do not lie with the city, but with the merchants association itself. 

"I think the Quartiers du Canal were a little bit zealous in their communication with the Sud-Ouest borough," he said.

McMillan, who owns three restaurants on Notre-Dame Street, said he is open to the idea of more pedestrian spaces but said he was not consulted prior to the street closure.

In the future, he said he would like the borough to communicate with businesses directly— instead of consulting with the association. 

"The SDC does not understand the finer workings of our restaurants, especially when we're in survival mode during COVID," he said. 

"They should keep their noses out of our business and let us operate our business the way that we see fit." 

Residents concerned over safety, increased traffic

On its website Friday, the city's ombudsman's office said that since June 5, it has received more than 150 citizen complaints about Montreal's active mobility corridors and its new bike path network.

Residents objected to the lack of consultation and communication and expressed concern about safety issues for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers alike. 

Magali Janvier lives on St-Ambroise Street and said she was relieved to hear the plan to make a section of Notre-Dame car-free was nixed. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Magali Janvier, who lives on St-Ambroise Street, said she was relieved to hear the plan was nixed.

"They should take this money and help merchants. There's so many shutdown stores and closed places that I think we could revive, instead of making it harder to access," she said.

Janvier said that the streets surrounding that section of Notre-Dame Street are residential and quiet.

"A child was killed five blocks from here recently from car traffic. We need to be smart about this and i think this was not the smart approach."

Lisa Spector, who lives in Little Burgundy, told CBC ​​​​​​ that in the days when the street was partially closed, she saw a major increase in traffic by her home. 

"I'm glad I don't have children running around because it would've been hazardous to them." 

While Spector isn't against giving more space to pedestrians, she feels this corridor was poorly planned.

With the Charlevoix Bridge currently closed to traffic, and lanes closed on nearby Atwater and Saint-Antoine streets, she said it was impossible to get around. 

With files from Simon Nakonechny

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