The municipal government in Lachute continues its plans to revitalize and redevelop the downtown area. The seven-phase initiative is designed to create a welcoming and vibrant setting in the town centre.
For the downtown revitalization effort, the city has partnered with Vivre en Ville and Rues Principales, organizations recognized across Québec in the field of downtown improvement, for the first two phases.
According to Mayor Bernard Bigras-Denis, the first two phases have involved council members consulting with downtown business owners about how they would like to see the area become more welcoming to pedestrians and as a gathering place.
This year, council has allocated $201,000 for traffic control barriers and benches to be placed at selected locations on a temporary basis, to gauge public response and impact on business and traffic. Dedicated bicycle lanes will not be added to rue Prinicipale in downtown Lachute in 2022.
Bigras-Denis said business owners were supportive of the ideas being tried this year.
“We’re really shopping around to see what the best practices are,” he said.
The temporary objects will be installed at around the end of June. The city will assess how successful they are over the summer and then decide what permanent solutions could be adopted in the future.
“We’re testing concepts to see what works,” Bigras-Denis said.
The objective is to adopt permanent solutions during the next three to five years. The barriers and seating being used this summer can be removed and reused in other neighbourhoods or municipal parks. The area subject to the trial measures in 2022 is in the area between rue Harriet and rue Bellingham. The city will continue to consider further options for the downtown using consultations and surveys.
Bigras-Denis noted 50 per cent of the businesses along the entirety of rue Principale in Lachute are in the downtown area.
Remarkably wide rue Principale has seen many alterations
With its remarkable width, rue Principale has always been the focal point of commercial activity in the centre of Lachute. According to Cyrus Thomas’ 1896 History of the Counties of Argenteuil, Québec and Prescott, Ontario, there were at least 17 stores and two hotels in what is now the downtown area by 1896.
However, challenges to having a downtown area that is comfortable for merchants and customers alike are not new to Lachute. In A History of Lachute from its earliest times to January 1, 1964, author G.R. Rigby wrote that in the late 1800’s, a stream flowed diagonally across rue Principale downtown from rue Bellingham to rue Water towards Rivière du nord, causing a wet obstacle. In 1888, the town did not want to build wooden sidewalks along rue Principale downtown but instead made the property owners build them at their own cost. By 1900, the sidewalks were in poor condition and the town ordered the property owners to repair them, again at their own cost.
Rigby wrote that the western portion of rue Principale was narrower in 1900 than it is today, and trees lined each side of the street in the centre of town. In 1945, rue Principale and avenue Bethany were the only paved streets in Lachute. In 1954, angle parking was introduced in the centre of rue Principale, with parking spaces also available on the side curbs. In the 1990s, a new concrete median and parallel parking was installed.
In the 1950’s Lachute town council banned hot dog stands downtown, but later allowed no more than two hot dog wagons to operate in the area. A 1952 regulation also banned residents of Lachute from wearing shorts in public. Both regulations were “an endeavour to keep the town decorous,” according to Rigby.