Did you know that there is an ambassador brigade in downtown Montreal? They are recognizable by their blue uniform, on the back of which it is written Your resource in the city centre. They roam the streets of downtown Montreal, seven days a week, all year round, to inform tourists and locals.
The mission of these six ambassadors: they are the eyes and ears of downtown. “These ambassadors are a first in Quebec. It is a recognized practice in most major cities around the world, New York, Chicago, Boston, Toronto. We were inspired by the practices of these cities that face the same issues as Montreal, ”explains Glenn Castanheira, general manager of Montreal downtown, in an interview. The pilot project started in 2021 then was renewed and is still in the running-in and adjustment period.
Ambassadors answer questions from tourists and locals: where is the nearest metro station? Where is Old Montreal? Where is this restaurant or shop located? How does BIXI work? Where is the restroom? In this regard, the P’tit Coin network offers 10 clean and free public toilets between Saint-Urbain and Atwater streets: there are notably the toilets of the Center Sheraton, Complexe Desjardins, Place Montréal Trust, Center Eaton, from La Maison Alcan or Faubourg Sainte-Catherine. For each of the participating buildings, there is an indication on the door and dots on the ground with arrows leading to the toilets.
“In addition to informing people, they liaise with downtown merchants, they also act a bit like inspectors, because they report acts of vandalism, broken furniture. They are there to improve the experience of visitors and residents and help the City maintain public space,” said Castanheira.
The other role of ambassadors is to support marginalized populations and ensure good coexistence with traders. “They can defuse situations, help marginalized populations and refer them to community groups as needed. Our ambassadors are trained in first aid and have had training by the YMCA,” he adds.
Théo Closson is responsible for the field teams in downtown Montreal. He believes that the role of ambassadors is very important.
We met Théo Closson at Phillips Square, which is undergoing a major revitalization. Tables and chairs have been set up. From July 5 to August 25, musical programming is scheduled at noon; from Wednesday to Friday, there will be a guitar trio, a string quartet, a flute and guitar duo and piano. “It’s good to reclaim places like this square, by the way, you can take the chair and move it to the shade, don’t hesitate,” he said, because at the same time, a member of the cleanliness team (which has existed since 2001) greets him and points out that people are too hot in the sun on the chairs of the Square (which are unoccupied) and that umbrellas should be installed. He is right, because in full sun, we were cooking. “We are still adjusting,” repeats Théo Closson.
The general manager of Montreal downtown, Glenn Castanheira, does not hide that he is inspired by Bryant Park in New York. In the heart of Midtown in Manhattan, there is this small park very popular with New Yorkers, where there are many activities all year round. “We want to do the same thing with Dorchester Square: set up tables there so that people can come and picnic and reclaim the public space, because downtown Montreal is not just a business district. ! “, believes the latter.
The general manager, for his part, believes that it is an incredible cultural center of which we should all be proud. Victim of its success, it is often criticized, but we do not roll up our sleeves to improve it.
And the works? “There are, indeed, many infrastructure works and real estate works, because Montreal is experiencing an unprecedented real estate boom. We have to manage all the construction sites. Imagine our city center if there were no construction sites, no social crisis, and everything was accessible by public transport in a very efficient way at all times, we would be the best in the world! Despite everything, we have one of the most dynamic downtown areas in North America, but we want to make it even better! concludes Glenn Castanheira.