Montreal wants you to visit the downtown area this summer

The city of Montreal is ready to welcome people back to the downtown area this summer, Mayor Valérie Plante said. Money has been set aside to promote downtown restaurants, support merchants in Chinatown, support festivals and the circus arts, and create other activities.

City has $25M-plan to make downtown vibrant, including restaurant promotion, support for merchants, festivals

After the pandemic put a damper on Montreal's trademark summer fun last year, the city is hoping to entice people to hang out downtown this year. (Jean Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada)

Valérie Plante has a message for Montrealers, students, out-of-province tourists, and anyone else thinking about visiting downtown this summer — come on down.

"You're welcome. It's going to be so much fun in Montreal," the mayor said at a news conference Thursday morning.

After a year where office buildings sat mostly empty and the trademark festivals were cancelled, the city is trying to convince people to go downtown this coming summer.

Plante, along with representatives from the Montreal chamber of commerce, the Quartier des spectacles, Tourisme Montréal and other stakeholders, outlined how $25 million will be spent to entice people back to the metropolis.

The plans include a campaign to promote downtown restaurants, money to support merchants in Chinatown, free parking on weekends until Labour Day, support for festivals and the circus arts, and the organization of other activities.

The money was announced last year — $10 million comes from the city of Montreal and $15 million from the government of Quebec.

The mayor said planning for last summer was difficult because things were unclear due to the pandemic.

"This year, we are ready," she said. 

"We've been working for a year together, and we all have this strong will of making our downtown friendly and fun and exciting again."

Plante said people are craving things like going out to restaurants and theatres, and she believes rules will be expected. It's up to the city and its partners, she said, to reassure them that it is safe.

Talk of what summer in the city might look like comes as Premier François Legault said Tuesday his goal is for all Quebecers who want to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June 24.

Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal's public health director, said Wednesday she doesn't expect summer to be filled with the massive festivals of prior years. But she said smaller events are likely to be allowed.

Getting workers to return

A big part the plan hinges on people who work downtown.

Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, said many big employers have said the earliest their employees would return to their office buildings would be September.

He said what employers can and can't do is guided first and foremost by public health officials.

But the goal is to see how that timeline can be moved up, he said. Employers and other stakeholders have work to do to make returning to the office desirable, and that work includes improving outdoor spaces and downtown in general.