'Coherent, contemporary' downtown after Ste-Catherine Street construction, city says

The City of Montreal has announced a four-year plan to revamp Ste-Catherine Street West in accordance with the city's "new commercial reality," Mayor Valérie Plante said Thursday.

Pedestrians prioritized in new plan, but with 144 fewer parking spaces, drivers promised app to find spots

Wider sidewalks, more trees and fewer lanes for drivers are part of the plan for Ste-Catherine Street. (City of Montreal)

The City of Montreal has announced a four-year plan to revamp Ste-Catherine Street West in accordance with the city's "new commercial reality," Mayor Valérie Plante said Thursday.

She said 70 per cent of traffic on the street is pedestrian, and the street's design should reflect that. 

To do so, construction now underway and set to continue until 2021 will fix infrastructure, widen sidewalks, add greenery, install new lighting and incorporate free WiFi.

"It's time to be audacious," Plante said.

The newly remodeled street will be rebuilt in the spirit of New York City's Fifth Avenue or Paris's Avenue des Champs-Élysées, planners said.

The street will become less accessible to vehicular traffic, as between Mansfield and Bleury streets, only its left lane will be navigable. That lane will be three-and-a-half metres wide. 

The street will also lose 144 parking spots, and the right lane will be reserved for delivery trucks.

To ease the parking crunch, part of the revamp plan does, however, include the development of a new app that will help drivers locate off-street parking, the city said.

The city offered this depiction of what the intersection of Ste-Catherine Street and McGill College Avenue will look like after construction. (City of Montreal)

François William Croteau, the executive committee member responsible for Montreal's Smart City initiative, said right now, there are, on average, 3,500 parking spots in the vicinity of Ste. Catherine Street West that aren't fully in use.

Plante's enthusiastic vow is that after construction is complete, downtown will unseat Old Montreal or the Plateau-Mont-Royal as a top tourist destination in the city. 

She also announced that Guy Charbonneau, the city's director of public works, has been put in charge of the project.

The city's "transformation of downtown Montreal" will also include reworking Phillips Square, Place du Frère-André, St. James Place, Dorchester Square and McGill College Avenue to provide more space for pedestrians and more greenery.

The entire construction project will cover 2.2 kilometres of Ste-Catherine Street, between Atwater Avenue and the Quartier des spectacles.

Some merchants worried about changes

The owner of Piranha Bar and Frite Alors on Ste-Catherine Street, Mathieu Malouin, is upset business owners weren't consulted about the changes.

He said they will hurt sales, which have already dipped more than 30 per cent during the winter. 

"It's hell. It's really, really tough. Everything has gone down," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Thursday.

"Plus we had the worst winter in twenty years, too. It's the perfect storm."

He did, however, say that the reserved lane for delivery trucks will help him, since he's had problems with being ticketed when they are outside.

Urban planners, cycling group praise move

The Montreal regional environment council, CRE-Montréal, said the plan reclaims space for pedestrians.

"Ste-Catherine will come out of this a winner," said the group's director, Coralie Deny.

The group added that making McGill College Avenue a pedestrian-only space will enrich the Promenade Fleuve-Montagne — a 3.8-kilometre walkway linking Mount Royal to the St. Lawrence River at the Old Port.

The Montréal Urban Ecology Centre (MUEC) said the Plante administration is following through on what citizens said they wanted in 2014 public consultations.

"Montrealers expected a strong gesture giving priority to pedestrians through comfortable and functional public spaces," said Véronique Fournier, the director of the urban ecology group.

Vélo Québec also said it's "delighted to see the concept of shared streets come to fruition on Sainte-Catherine," CEO Suzanne Lareau said.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada reporter Jean-Sébastien Cloutier, with files from CBC's Daybreak


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