Saint John community ‘hub’ aims to reduce poverty through creativity, entrepreneurship

Investors, donors, and tenants tour new Saint John social enterprise hub
WATCH ABOVE: A social enterprise hub aimed at reducing poverty in Saint John is just months away from opening, as investors, donors and tenants toured the construction site. Global’s Adrienne South has more.

A new community space being built in Saint John could mean a lower poverty rate for New Brunswick.

The Social Enterprise Hub, a 15,000 square foot facility under construction in Waterloo Village, will bring together organizations to focus on building a better community through creativity and entrepreneurship.

The Community Loan Fund general manger Seth Asimakos met with investors, donors and future tenants on Tuesday to give a tour, progress update and provided a chance for all those involved in the project to connect.

“When we started the Community Loan Fund we had a poverty rate of around 25 percent and right now it’s around 20 percent and we feel we can do a lot better,” Asimakos said.

Saint John Mayor Don Darling was in attendance at the event.  He says he’s happy to see the project 70 percent complete. Darling tells Global News that the hub is a great example of what can happen when people get together with a plan.

Story continues below advertisement

“I think the fact it’s in the Waterloo Village area-which is one of the renewal areas that the city has designated for renewal is very very exciting and for me it just struck me as we were touring inside it’s the ‘outcome accelerator’ that I’m interest in,” Darling said.

Darling tells Global News he’s thrilled to see all everyone coming together under one roof- sharing ideas, working together, and possible sharing resources to reach a common goal and outcome.

Asimkos says the new facility will  provide excellent training space for clients that are going through literacy programs as well as learning workplace essential skills.

“The idea came about in 2009, and we’re 2016 so from idea to actual construction is quite a bit of time. and in-between there you have to pitch to your own board to get them on board and wanting to do this type of initiative, and then you have to go out and pitch to investors and to donors and what we wanted to do today was those individuals and groups that came on board, you know 2013 to 2015, we wanted to bring them into the Hub and take them through so that they can see how their money has gone to work so far,” Asimakos said.

ACAP Saint John is one of the organizations moving into the hub in September.  ACAP executive director Graeme Stewart-Robertson says he hopes to collaborate with groups to help them view projects through an environmental lens.

Story continues below advertisement

“To be part of an organization– a hub of all these different groups working together to achieve all these goals, we know we  can create a province and a city that are not just you know, catching up with the world, but we can set new precedents, set new examples and make Saint John a leader in all these aspects,” Stewart-Robertson said.

The facility is currently at 90 percent capacity.  Other future tenants include the Saint John Human Development Council and the Saint John Learning Exchange.

The first floor of the building will also house local small businesses, a wellness/yoga studio, a retail space and a start-up food catering business.

Asimokos says investors and donors will have another chance to tour the hub once it’s finished and tenants are settled into the building.