The first working-class Québec City suburb, St-Roch was built at the beginning of the 17th century and initially was developed as a result of its commercial port.
Due to its strategic location and easy access via the waterways, the construction of wooden ships became its most important economic activity. The footwear industry also had a major impact in the development of the district. It is through these economic engines that the population of St-Roch quickly rose from a few hundred to more than 20,000 residents.
Until the end of the 1950s, St-Roch was regarded as the commercial and manufacturing hub of Québec City. The arrival of shopping malls and the development of the suburbs caused erosion of business activity and the departure of many city residents; this was the beginning of the decline of the urban centre. Within a few decades, the population of St-Roch fell to 5,000 residents. The Laurentian and Dufferin-Montmorency highway construction contributed to weakening the district as a result of the building of the concrete border, thus cutting St-Roch in two.
Various projects were put forward to revitalize St-Roch in the 1960s, but none gave the expected results. Neither the concreting of the shores of the St-Charles River, nor major residential projects succeeded in reversing the decline.
In the early 1970s, it attempted to compete with shopping malls by covering rue St-Joseph with a permanent roof to create the longest mall in the country.
Despite numerous attempts to revitalize the neighborhood and to make the sector dynamic, it was at the beginning of the 1990s that some signs announcing the resumption of economic activity and the growth of the population were seen.
A vast physical, social and cultural intervention, supported by the municipality, gradually restored St-Roch’s vocation as a dynamic center. Parks appeared and Université Laval moved some faculties there. This great activity and the interesting social, cultural and commercial diversity attracted the Université du Québec and ENAP, which led to construction of student housing and implementation of some local shops.
At the same time, the roof of the Mall was gradually removed and many incentives were introduced for the renovation and establishment of professional service offices between boulevard Charest est and St-Joseph. The promotion of the arts and cultural sectors also led to the rapid growth of the district. Several new shops opened their doors following major investments by some building owners and some of their initiatives (GM Development Assistance Program).
On the outskirts of the old Port and old Québec, the St-Roch district became a popular urban destination. Following the investment of several million dollars to renovate the majority of the buildings along rue St-Joseph, the district regained its noble status.
Featuring events, boutiques, retail shops, restaurants and cafés/bars in the city, St-Roch is now a must-see place, both for visitors and Québec City residents. It is also a living environment and features outstanding work with its many businesses and unifying community spirit.