The Globe and Mail reports in its Wednesday edition that more than a quarter of downtown businesses in Montreal were empty in August, while the office vacancy rate in older buildings shot up to 18 per cent in third quarter from 8 per cent a year ago. The Globe's Konrad Yakabuski writes that was before Quebec implemented stricter pandemic protocols in September, forcing restaurants and cultural venues to close altogether.
The number of people who frequent the downtown core daily for work, school or leisure has fallen by 90 per cent since February to barely 50,000 souls. The head offices of Hydro-Quebec, the Caisse pension fund and SNC-Lavalin are essentially empty, with 95 per cent or more of employees working from home.
Montreal's core has been especially hard hit because it has proportionally fewer permanent residents than central Toronto and Vancouver. The downtown core accounts for about 63 per cent of Montreal's hotels. Their occupancy rate in August was 19 per cent, compared to 88 per cent for the same month in 2019. It took more than a decade for Ste-Catherine Street to bounce back from an economic lull after the 1995 referendum. Without a major tax relief, it looks to be in for another tough decade.
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