01/12/2014 03:21 EST | Updated 03/14/2014 05:59 EDT

A car-free Ste-Catherine Street?

Big plans are being discussed for revamping Ste-Catherine Street in time for the celebration of Montreal’s 375th anniversary in 2017, including the possibility of turning a downtown stretch of the historic thoroughfare into a pedestrian zone.

However, it’s a proposal that’s meeting with mixed reviews.

Gilbert Rozon,Commissioner of the Society for the Celebration of Montréal's 375th Anniversary, says it’s clear that something has to be done about Ste-Catherine Street and lists off a litany of ills plaguing the street.

“You could talk about the parking, you could talk about the fact that it’s always jam-packed, the fact that it’s not as large as it should be, that it’s not easy for pedestrians to walk because the sidewalks are kind of small,” Rozon says.

One idea that Rozon’s commission is considering is a proposal to turn 650 metres of the street from Bleury Street to Mansfield Street, and perhaps more, into a pedestrian zone for at least part of the year.

Whatever the commission decides, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has made it clear he wants Ste-Catherine to be a busier and livelier place as a result.

Dinu Bumbaru, policy director for Heritage Montreal, worries that shutting Ste-Catherine to cars would have the opposite effect and inadvertently kill the downtown core instead.

It’s a move that has to be given very careful consideration, he says.

“Pedestrianizing the main street of a metropolitan community is a very daunting task. Look at Prince Arthur and tell me if that works,” he said, referring to the pedestrian mall in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood.

Prohibiting cars could also have the effect of limiting accessibility to the downtown core, and that could be bad for business.

“Not everyone is going to come by subway,” Bumbaru says.

Coderre says Montrealers will have a say in what happens to Ste-Catherine Street.