Montreal

St-Denis merchants hope street will 'bounce back' after year of repairs

Merchants on St-Denis Street say "For Rent" and "A Louer" signs have become a far too common sight on the commercial stretch that was buried under construction for a year.

Businesses fled commercial district due to lost revenue as large swaths of street were torn up, inaccessible

Customers had next to no access to Le Hachoir restaurant, at the intersection of Rachel and St. Denis streets, in 2016. Both streets were under construction. Waiting staff found a way to make light of their woes. (Restaurant Hachoir/Facebook)

Merchants on St-Denis Street say "For Rent" and "A Louer" signs have become a far too common sight on the commercial stretch that was buried under construction for a year.

Businesses fled the commercial district between Duluth Avenue and Marie-Anne Street due to lost revenue as both the road and sidewalks along St-Denis were torn up and, at times, inaccessible.

Merchants are hoping things will go back to normal now that the construction has finally ended. (CBC)

The city announced Wednesday that it surpassed its targets for road and infrastructure repairs in 2016, spending nearly $600 million on repairs.

Changes on St. Denis Street 2016 to 2014 (Source: Google) 0:12

The construction work on St-Denis Street, which began in September 2015, was a nightmare for businesses.

Even the city's efforts to help the store and restaurant owners were met with criticism, such as the installation of La Grande Terrasse Rouge — a long, continuous red terrasse that was set up between Roy Street and Mount-Royal Avenue on the east side of St-Denis.
La Grande Terrasse Rouge runs from Roy Street to Mont-Royal Avenue. (Radio-Canada)
Vincent Puorto, the owner of Artigiani Pizzeria, said the red terrasse was no help, as it further impeded the flow of traffic. (CBC)
Vincent Puorto, the owner of Artigiani pizzeria, told CBC that by putting in the public sitting space, "they removed a lane we could've used for circulation."

"This is how we got affected," he said. "People just avoided the area because it was always blocked."

The City of Montreal announced Wednesday that it would be "donating" the terrasse to the St-Denis Merchants' Association for free. There's no word yet on how welcome that donation will be.

'It's empty'

Despite the worst of the construction closures being behind them, many merchants are concerned about the future of the once-booming street.

"We should work on the image of the street," said Alain Dussault, owner of the restaurant Le Hachoir. "The vision of what people think St-Denis is, is now, 'It's empty.'"

Changes on St. Denis Street 2016 to 2014 (Source: Google) 0:12

Units to fill

Property manager Dino Santelli has four commercial units on St. Denis Street. (CBC)

Property manager Dino Santelli still has four commercial units to lease on St-Denis Street. He says the vacancies are all a result of last year's repair work. 

"Most of those tenants that were in those buildings, they were new businesses," he said. "So they didn't have that major client base to support them during the rough times."

Still, he's optimistic moving forward.

"I think it's going to bounce back."

Construction dominated St. Denis Street in 2015 and 2016. Here is what a stretch of the 4100 block of St. Denis Street looked like in 2016 (left) and before construction started in 2014 (right). (Google)

With files from Antoni Nerestant