Montreal and Chicago | How two major city centers lead the show

At first glance, it may seem as if the world separates downtown Chicago and Montreal because of what sets them apart. But the pandemic has highlighted what the second-largest business district in the United States, the Loop, has in common, and Canada’s second-largest financial center.

Posted at 3:00 PM.

Glenn Castanheira and Michael Edwards
CEO, SDC Montréal center-ville and CEO, Chicago Loop Alliance*

Our two city centers are now on a similar path facing the end of the crisis and appear to be among the most dynamic candidates, while remaining cautiously optimistic. They experience a challenging development, many victories, and the same ambition: to bring life back to the midst of the skyscrapers.

This summer, they both experienced an exceptional summer season and an amazing revival in attendance.

Although the return of workers has slowed, our downtown centers have seen a strong rebound in tourism and business activity as turnout, hotel occupancy, and retail spending approached pre-pandemic figures.

They have revived all of their major events, as well as offering a diverse and accessible program, inviting tourists and residents to rediscover and enjoy their many attractions like never before.

Both benefit from a significant increase in the number of residents choosing to live there. In 2021, more than 42,000 people lived in the ring, the highest rate ever recorded. Downtown Chicago is now positioned as the center of the strongest housing growth in the United States. As for downtown Montreal, its population has grown by 40% since 2016, the second strongest demographic growth in Canada. The pleasure of living there makes it even more important to promote and diversify a cultural, commercial and festive event that spans four seasons.

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international influence


Old Port of Montreal in the summer of 2022

Downtown Montreal and Chicago continue to shine internationally despite a long episode marked by the absence of visitors and major events. Chicago rose to second place in the ranking of the best cities in the world in 2022. While Montreal is the only city on the continent among the ten cities that hosted the most international events in 2021, cementing its position as the North-American capital for international events.

Despite the challenges they face, both have not stopped attracting young talent, private investments, and new businesses challenged by the abundance of their ecosystems. Google has chosen to strengthen its presence in Montreal and Chicago by opening new offices, a symbol of the dynamism experienced in the downtown areas.

Both have played the diversification card of customers to breathe new life into their city centres. Montreal already had a strong start, both as the economic and cultural center of Quebec City where nearly 130,000 students meet. Just like the Loop, already famous for its many attractions, including its world-class public art and prestigious higher education institutions, which became a reference during this crisis for its ability to reinvent the commercial district by offering an unforgettable scene and unifying experience.

The pandemic has reminded us that the world is changing. City centers, far from suffocating, are also following this trend to meet the challenges they face.

As the summer season gives way to business tourism and thousands of students return to campus, these two destinations remain among the most popular destinations in North America.

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Through new events, urban art and entertainment, and actions to beautify vacant buildings, revitalize commercial arteries, and enhance accessibility, cleanliness and a sense of safety, we will continue to develop an exceptional environment to live, study, work in and come together.

It’s still too early to declare victory, but skeptics will be puzzled. Montreal and Chicago travel together.

* Michael Edwards and Glenn Castanheira will be panelists at C2 Montreal as part of the ‘Investing in Dynamic Business Districts to Foster Social Growth’ conference, to be held on September 27 at 9 a.m.

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