Sud-Ouest merchants upset as major changes come to Notre-Dame Street

Eastbound car traffic will now be redirected to St-Jacques Street, and parking lanes have been removed.

Eastbound traffic is being redirected, parking lanes removed to make room for pedestrians, city says

Toby Lyle, co-owner of Burgundy Lion Pub on Notre-Dame Street, says he thinks merchants should have been consulted before the changes were made. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

Some residents and business owners in Montreal's Sud-Ouest borough are feeling frustrated and left in the dark after the city partially closed Notre-Dame Street to traffic Tuesday to make room for pedestrians. 

The city has closed the eastbound lane of Notre-Dame Street between Vinet and Workman streets and opened up an active mobility corridor — an area reserved for pedestrians and cyclists in order to make physical distancing easier. 

But Notre-Dame Street is home to many businesses and restaurants and some people are upset over what they say was a lack of consultation. 

Joe Beef owner David McMillan was outraged when he found out the street would be partially closed. 

Struggling to keep his restaurants alive amid the pandemic, McMillan says the city has thrown him one curve ball after another. 

He says that while the city is promising to help business by bringing entertainment to the area, it is doing nothing but harm. 

"You're shutting the street down, and putting in bicycle lanes and there's a D.J. with clowns? … Just let me run my businesses. I'm already down 85 per cent and that's not helping," McMillan told CBC News Thursday morning. 

McMillan says he was given almost no prior notice of the changes. 

"It's just impossible to follow. I'm a business person, I have three kids, I'm trying to survive during COVID," said McMillan. "I can't also spend 20 hours a week trying to figure out what's going on in my borough."

McMillan says the street closure will make it harder to attract diners who drive, and will also make it slower for delivery services to get around at a time when restaurants rely heavily on them. 

"Everyone's issue on the street has been that we found about this on Friday," said Toby Lyle, co-owner of Burgundy Lion Pub. He says while an expanded terrasse would be good for his business, he's concerned about the parking spots being cut.

Lyle says there were no consultations and the city should have communicated changes that would affect merchants on the street so deeply, sooner and more clearly.

The city has removed parking spaces, and some merchants say they're worried it will slow business down. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

In a news conference Thursday, the City of Montreal said the active mobility corridors it had already put in place have been successful so far. 

According to the city, five of the new active corridors have become the most used bicycle paths in the city and the already existing bicycle paths that were enlarged for the project have become even more popular. 

For instance, the path on Rachel Street saw a 52 per cent increase in use compared to last year, while the one at the intersection of Christophe-Colomb Avenue and Louvain Street has seen an increase of 90 per cent. 

As for the lack of parking spaces, Sud-Ouest borough councillor Alain Vaillancourt says there are still options for people coming by car, as people can park on side streets. 

"The businesses will be able to put their picnic tables, they'll be able to go into the street to expand their business, to respect all the social distancing required," Vaillancourt said.

"It'll encourage more people to come. So in the end, we hope it's better for business."

If there are changes that need to be made, however, Vaillancourt says the city is ready to react quickly. 

He also says businesses will have to pay less than they would normally for a terrasse permit. 

The changes will remain in place for eight weeks, the city said in a release.

Traffic redirected 

With the active mobility corridor in place, westbound traffic will continue in the centre of the street, while eastbound traffic will be redirected to St-Jacques Street via Place Saint-Henri.

These measures are meant to make the area safer for pedestrians but Sud-Ouest resident and business owner Danielle Russel is concerned it may have the opposite effect. 

While her business, Botania Inc. is currently closed and therefore not affected by the changes, she says cars being redirected to other streets could make other intersections even busier. 

On top of that, some of the bus stops previously located on Notre-Dame have been moved to Saint-Antoine Street, making them farther away and harder for public transit users to get to, she said. 

"We had a child die a week ago on St -Ambroise and now you're talking Saint-Antoine? Saint-Antoine is a hundred times [busier than] St-Ambroise," she said. 

"A lot of the people who get off there might not know how to navigate. It isn't intuitive." 

With files from Matt D'Amours and Kate McKenna


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