“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” says Françoise Taïsson, co-owner of Tabagie Wellington. The customers had left the city center because the dealers were also leaving the city center. Here in Wellington North there was almost nothing left. Restaurants closed, shops too. We now hope that the changes in the city center will get the wheels turning again and people will come back. Because at the moment even the Well Sud project is not delivering the expected results, but I hope they will come!”
After a long delay and a helium-filled bill, the Grandes Fourches Bridge was finally opened on December 20th. Although it's still too early to gauge the impact after just a month, those who have staked everything on downtown in hopes of economic success view the recent changes as one of the biggest achievements for the city's vitality. Because with the streets Abénakis and Court, which now connect Rue des Grandes-Fourches Nord with Rue Dufferin, everything goes faster.
After crossing the Terrill Bridge, the famous Moore Street detour was completed, forcing motorists to take the very small Joseph-Rosenbloom Street, then cross Montreal Street and finally arrive in Dufferin. The roundabout also makes work easier.
“It was complicated for the citizens, imagine for the tourists,” notes the co-owner of the American tavern O'Chevreuil, Maxime Saumier. However, habits don't change overnight. We'll have to change our reflexes: even I still forget this happens and I work here every day! Frankly, the bridge and streets opening onto Rue des Grandes-Fourches help the city center tremendously. Accessibility has been significantly improved and will be even better when Grandes-Fourches connects to Rue Dépôt, which is now fully accessible to motorists. »
“We are quietly and not quickly breaking away from the cliché that the city center is difficult to reach,” observes the entrepreneur. Now the word is getting out: It's nice to come downtown. People will have a great experience and there will be a desire to come back.”
“I personally save valuable minutes every day thanks to the bridge and the new roads, and that also applies to the customers,” confirms antique dealer Claude Couture. I can't wait until they destroy the old bridge. Also, what do you mean it hasn't happened yet? This site, close to the Magog River, has exceptional potential that can be quickly realized in riparian development. We must make our rivers accessible to citizens.”
You only have to cross the bridge once to enjoy the spectacular views of the City Hall, the Magog River, Saint-Michel Cathedral and Frontenac Street.
Other historic pieces stand out even more, adorning the new downtown landscape in a different way thanks to recent changes.
Like the former law school of the University of Sherbrooke, very close to the town hall, the Abénakis hydroelectric power station and the Sherbrooke seminary and the Museum of Fine Arts.
“The new street design represents an improvement for us,” confirms the general director of the museum, Maude Charland-Lallier. This will not only improve access to Rue du Musée, but will also reduce car traffic on Dufferin, making it easier to manage our deliveries and creating a quieter environment for pedestrians and visitors to the various museums. »
“There are some great achievements in the city center,” admits Maxime Saumier. We hit rock bottom a few years ago, but we're climbing back up. We see the light at the end of the tunnel. Last year was probably one of the worst years and this year is going to be a lot better. This is already an observation and we are surprised. I did not expect that. Since the pandemic, there has been nothing but negative in the city center. It was one construction site after another. This made traffic and parking difficult. When it comes to construction, Sherbrooke isn’t quite Montreal, but it hasn’t been easy lately.”
“We’ve seen more people since the beginning of the month,” he continues. It was difficult to estimate the time between Christmas and New Year as O'Chevreuil had limited opening hours and Parizzo was closed. But we really feel like traffic is better downtown. We are very happy, especially because the city center is now easily accessible. I come every day and find it much more pleasant. The detour was not that big, but it was quite tedious, especially for less experienced tourists such as tourists. We've heard mostly about parking for several weeks. It is easier with the 100 parking spaces provided. In the past, for example, people sometimes parked up to the Maxi, but now that’s not even necessary anymore.”