Montreal’s transit authority, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), is trying to breathe new life into an aging mall, Saint-Léonard’s Le Boulevard.
The shopping centre, located on Jean Talon street just east of Pie-IX Boulevard, was expropriated to make way for the blue line Metro extension and was supposed to close at the end of 2021.
At that point, many retailers left.
Although the STM and its partners later decided to keep the mall open, many of the storefronts are shuttered and all of the restaurants closed.
Several of the big box stores are accessible only from the back of the mall, which is inconvenient for customers and has significantly reduced foot traffic for smaller businesses inside the mall.
Yesterday morning, the STM met with the remaining commercial retailers to give them an update on next steps.
Property manager Colliers International is trying to attract new businesses and several studies have been done to figure out the best way for the shopping centre and future construction site to co-exist.
“We’re actually pretty convinced we’re going to be able to have an interesting commercial hub for customers in that area during construction,” said Maha Clour, the STM’s senior project manager for the blue line extension.
The main commercial anchors — Metro grocery store, Jean Coutu pharmacy and Canadian Tire — will remain. The pharmacy will eventually relocate to a different part of the mall as the STM prepares to build an entry point below ground for the tunnel-boring machine and the construction of the future Metro station at the corner of Pie-IX.
To make space for that work, Clour said roughly a third of the mall will be demolished in early 2024. The demolition area is focused on the west side of the mall and includes the former Meubles RD store which is currently occupied by Urban Planet, the former SAQ, the current Jean-Coutu location and five spaces south of the pharmacy.
Access points from Pie-IX Boulevard will be redesigned to make it easier for shoppers to get into the mall.
A few of the businesses CBC News spoke with are unsure if they will move to a different part of the mall and said a decision will be made in the coming weeks. Others were hopeful that by filling up the empty storefronts and grouping businesses closer together, there would be a more vibrant feel in the mall.
CBC News also spoke with the owner of a new sushi shop who plans to open next month, which came as welcome news to people who worked in the mall. Until now, there was only a merchant who operated a mobile coffee cart.
Clour said it is too early to say what will happen to the mall in the long term.
Initially, only a portion of the mall’s property was supposed to be expropriated, but the Tribunal administratif du Québec (TAQ) forced the STM to acquire the entire property at a cost of $115 million dollars.
To offset the costs, Mayor Valérie Plante’s administration had proposed selling the rest of the property.
Several high-rise apartment buildings for seniors are located nearby, but Clour was tight-lipped about whether the site will be sold or what could be developed once the blue line extension is complete.