Downtown of the future: What Montreal’s city centre might look like when COVID passes

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The impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on Montreal’s downtown core is no secret. The office towers remain mostly empty as work from home directives remain in place, restaurant dining rooms are shuttered and streets have been devoid of the usual throng of students and tourists for months on end.

Unlike other neighbourhoods people live in, the “downtown lives because it attracts people,” said Richard Shearmur, Director of McGill School of Urban Planning, detailing the particular challenges facing the city’s heart centre.

While vaccination offers the promise of better days ahead, the threat of a surge in cases linked to COVID-19 variants could slow down efforts to get Montreal back on track.

Preliminary results of a survey conducted among members by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) from April 8 to April 13, indicate businesses owners citywide are very worried.

Close to 70 per cent of respondents said the uncertainty surrounding the third wave, and the possibility of more restrictions and closures is a main concern.

Many businesses currently aren’t operating at full capacity in terms of staffing and revenues aren’t what they should be for this time of year either. Only 28 per cent said they were making above or about the usual for this time of year, while 8.3 per cent said they had no revenues at all.

A majority (64.3 per cent) of those surveyed in Montreal indicated that emergency relief programs like the Canada Emergency Business Account, Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy continue to be crucial for the survival of their businesses for 2021.

Most (85 per cent) also agree that emergency support for businesses should remain until all COVID-19 related restrictions are removed.