St-Denis Street businesses rebounding after construction lull

A little more than a year after construction on the artery wrapped up, the commercial vacancy rate is dropping and business owners are optimistic.

Commercial vacancy rate has dropped from 27% in March 2016 to 14% this month

St-Denis Street is bouncing back a little more a year after construction work wrapped up. The vacancy rate drops by more than 10 per cent. (CBC)

The St-Denis Street business development corporation says the street is starting to rebound, a little more than a year after construction on the commercial artery wrapped up.

During the year-long construction period, many businesses fled the commercial district between Duluth Avenue and Marie-Anne Street as both the road and sidewalks were torn up.

Caroline Tessier, director of the merchants' association, said now the street is undergoing a "transformation."

She said that 35 new businesses have opened on St-Denis this year and that the vacancy rate is down more than 10 per cent.

In March 2016, the vacancy rate in the area was at 27 per cent. Today, it's down to 14 per cent.

​And while there are still 50 empty storefronts in the area and "for rent" signs where businesses used to be, Tessier says things are looking up.

"We want to give merchants confidence for the future," she said.

The association is hoping to bring the vacancy rate down further to be on par with Montreal's average of nine per cent by the end of 2018.

Véronique Parent works at the home decor store Zone on St-Denis Street. (CBC)

Tessier told CBC that the association has several initiatives planned to attract new life to the street, including a program that includes open houses, promotional material and thousands of dollars in bursaries for new businesses.

Things are improving for some existing businesses on the street as well.

"Our business is better than it was the year before construction started," said Véronique Parent, who works at the home decor store Zone. "It's a good sign for us."

With files from Kate McKenna, Brennan Neill