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Vacancies popping up at Saint John City Market

Click to play video: 'Saint John City Market vacancies raise eyebrows'
Saint John City Market vacancies raise eyebrows
WATCH ABOVE: It appears the Saint John City Market is going through a period of change. For the first time in many years, there are a number of vacant spaces in the historic building. As Global's Andrew Cromwell reports officials are looking into how to make the market even better moving forward – Dec 30, 2016

There’s a noticeable difference in the historic Saint John City Market as a number of stalls once filled by merchants sit vacant.

One market merchant says in the almost 40 years he’s been working there, he’s never seen the vacancy rate so high. The city says prior to its current status the market has not had a vacancy since 2012.

READ MORE: Saint John entertains thousands in busiest week of cruise ship season

Others who have worked in the building for years say it’s disappointing to see.

“I certainly can understand that I guess they have to have the business to keep open,” said Esther Dean of Pat’s Secret Garden. “It’s hard to know what it would take to draw people in.”

But in an email to Global News the city says the market itself is going through changes as they “re-evaluate the appropriate long-term use of the space.”

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“We hired a consultant for seven or eight months to look things over, speak with the different tenants and speak with the people coming in to find out exactly what should be there,” said Councillor Gerry Lowe in an interview.

One issue a number of merchants say is hurting them is the amount of metered parking in the area.

“Parking is killing our business,” said market merchant Santos Ruyan of Taco Pica. “When a few people come and get a ticket, they just they go away. They don’t come back”.

Lowe said he would like to see at least some form of free parking on one of the market side streets.

“Get somebody from the market from say 10 to 4 in the afternoon, [to provide] 20, 10, 15-minute parking,” Lowe said. “Come in, run in and get an order or get a coffee or something, run out and jump in your car without getting a $50 or 60 ticket.”

The city says it has received some informal expressions of interest in some of the vacancies which staff are actively pursuing. In the meantime some of the available space will be used to accommodate existing merchants while infrastructure improvements are being made to the facility.

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