Businesses near the Rideau Street underpass are already looking to spruce up the dark, concrete atmosphere of the controversial space before hosting cultural events there this summer.
A city committee yesterday gave the Downtown Rideau Business Improvement Area the nod to use the underpass for arts and musical performances. Peggy DuCharme, executive director of the BIA, said the first order of business would be to “visually enhance the space.”
DuCharme said the BIA is considering relocating street art to the area, as well as erecting signage.
The underpass has long been a place where homeless people have sought shelter until the city recently installed a black fence to block access. Steven Beriault, 21, was sleeping there with other street youth in 2006 when he was murdered.
Bringing performances and crowds to the underpass is seen by some homeless advocates as another way to chase out the people who shelter there and they are wary that the space is controlled by businesses, which they feel are hostile to the needs of the homeless.
The committee also approved a pilot project that permits social-service agencies and churches to sell items made by homeless people on their property and abutting city sidewalks.
“It would be an organized way of providing them with an opportunity,” said councillor Georges Bedard. “What was initially proposed … is that they would be left loose with no organization and they could do whatever they wanted and that’s totally unacceptable.”