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Montreal Vacancies Leave Commercial Corridors Struggling

Areas like St-Denis Street used to be bustling shopping destinations, but a shift in recent years has resulted in many empty storefronts.
January 27, 2020, 9am PST | Camille Fink
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René Bruemmer explores the issue of commercial vacancies in Montreal, where 15 percent of street-level retail spaces are empty. "Among the causes cited are some of the highest commercial property taxes in Canada, avaricious landlords demanding high rents, online shopping, restrictive zoning policies and debilitating road construction."

St-Denis Street is one commercial area that has been hit especially hard. Once a premiere shopping area, the corridor is now struggling with vacancies and decreases in foot traffic. "Experts say the vacancies are also a symptom of stores failing to adapt as consumers shift to buying local instead of driving to destination streets, seeking neighbourhood shops for vegetables or manicures or shoe repair. St-Denis has relatively few stores and shops catering to local needs, and merchants say that’s killing their businesses," says Bruemmer.

Solutions for revitalizing areas like St-Denis are not always clear. The causes of decline vary from street to street and are dependent on local policies and regulations as well as external factors, such as online shopping. "Arteries that are flourishing, like Fleury St. in Ahuntsic or Wellington St. in Verdun, have strong business associations that have reconsidered their needs," notes Bruemmer.

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Published on Thursday, January 16, 2020 in Montreal Gazette
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