It’s good to live downtown

3 minutes

Ariane Mimeault

Far more than a transient hub for workers, tourists, and novelty seekers, downtown Montreal is a neighbourhood made up of people from all over the world. Statistics tell us that more than 60,000 people live here, and an increasing number of projects are being deployed to create more synergy, vitality, and sustainability in the city’s flagship district. Read on to learn more.

Several initiatives and major projects have been rolled out to improve how we live, work, and play on Sainte Catherine Street West.

The new Sainte Catherine West: from stop-off point to a place to set down roots

Since 2018, the city has been undertaking major revitalization projects along Sainte Catherine West. You could say that the thoroughfare is undergoing total rejuvenation, so much so that it may result in changing the very way we interact with it.

Christiane Rail, Section Headat the city’s urban planning and mobility department, explains that such changes are designed to create a more pleasant and comfortable place to visit and, more importantly, to make it a better place for people to live and work.

Although Sainte Catherine West was once seen as a gateway to get from point A to point B, the street is now becoming a place for people to stop, unwind, and meet up. Great efforts are being made to make interacting with Sainte Catherine an increasingly exciting and human-scale experience, one which includes more green spaces, inviting urban furniture, optimized pedestrian walkways, and free Wi-Fi.

This revitalization work also involves greening and enlarging Phillips Square, transitioning McGill Avenue to a pedestrian area, and redeveloping Sainte Catherine Street West all the way to Atwater Avenue.

The street will ultimately become a world-class destination for residents and visitors.

PAF: another tool to support the community

A sign of this being a burgeoning place to be: the downtown community is brimming with organizations that come to both support and entertain residents.

These organizations have several wonderful tools at their disposal, most notably the PAF program (Programme d’Aide Financière aux organismes et initiatives du centre-ville), which Montréal centre-villelaunched a few years back. The fund is designed to support creative and innovative projects that make the neighbourhood more attractive and welcoming.

As an example, Rami M’rad, the Membership Services Coordinator at Montréal centre-ville, mentions the financial assistance PAF provided to Souk Habitat at PVM, a showroom for local designers located on the 20th floor of Place Ville-Marie. Another such project: Carnaval des couleurs, an event that promotes diversity and inclusion.

Montréal centre-ville is also involved in grassroots projects like Dialogue, a program that partners with the YMCA to support the homeless; Ambassadeurs du centre-ville, agents who act as liaisons between the diverse populations of downtown Montreal; and La brigade de propreté, which keeps the borough clean and well maintained.

“All of this is an effort to foster social coexistence and make sure that it’s good to live downtown,” underscores M’rad.

ÉMMIS: no person left behind

Overseen by SDS (Société de Développement Social), the ÉMMIS (Équipe mobile de médiation et d’intervention sociale) project focusses on alleviating pressure on frontline services by providing psycho-social support to downtown Montreal’s more vulnerable populations.

“We want to de-escalate situations,” explains François Raymond, Director General at SDS. “For instance, neighbourhood police can contact ÉMMIS when they assess a situation as requiring more of a psycho-social than law-enforcement approach. 

All organizations in the borough that work with vulnerable populations are welcome to get in touch with ÉMMIS. Unfortunately, the pandemic has doubled the number of people experiencing vulnerability, but there is hope. “When we communicate a certain need, our partner institutions are open to it. As it stands now, everyone wants to find solutions to homelessness, which means we need to seize this moment,” shares Raymond.

ÉMMIS is a win-win for everyone, according to SDS’s Director General. “Police need it, clients need it, the city needs it… why didn’t we get this off the ground earlier?!”

Downtown Montreal is all the better for it.