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Montreal banking on free parking, entertainment to lure holiday shoppers downtown

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante slips on her protective mask during a news conference in Montreal, on Thursday, May 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

MONTREAL – Montreal’s mayor says she hopes her $6-million plan that includes free parking and longer store operating hours will be enough to lure holiday shoppers to the city’s hard-hit downtown.

Valerie Plante said today many retailers are facing permanent closure and need an influx of holiday cash to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her plan includes making the city’s 18,000 metered parking spaces free on weekends, pedestrianizing more streets and bringing unspecified entertainment to shopping areas.

She’s also boosted funding for an urban delivery service that helps merchants get products to customers’ homes.

The city has estimated that the number of people circulating downtown has dropped by about 90 per cent since the beginning of the pandemic.

Plante urged Montrealers to ditch online retailers in favour of local merchants for holiday purchases.

“It’s not the online shopping giants that need our help, they don’t need us to survive, but our small businesses do,” she told a news conference.

Plante said she is worried her plan won’t be enough, and urged the federal and provincial governments to step in to help the struggling downtown sector.

Billy Walsh, the head of an organization representing merchants’ groups, said many of the measures announced today had been requested by business owners.

He said, however, that it will be difficult for commercial areas to rebound if the province extends its lockdown orders on bars and restaurant dining areas.

Those closures are in place until at least Oct. 28.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct 22, 2020