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Saint John not ignoring its heritage despite ‘Jelly Bean Houses’ demolition: councillor

Click to play video: 'Saint John ‘Jelly Bean’ buildings make way for new housing development' Saint John ‘Jelly Bean’ buildings make way for new housing development
WATCH: Despite efforts to save them, these three historic buildings in uptown Saint John are no more. Better known as the jelly bean houses, they're coming down to make way for a housing development. Andrew Cromwell reports – Apr 8, 2017

A Saint John city councillor is defending the decision to demolish three famous buildings over the weekend, saying the city is not ignoring its heritage despite the tear down of the historic properties.

READ MORE: Saint John ‘Jelly Bean’ buildings make way for new housing development

The “Jelly Bean Houses,” given the name because of their bright colours, were brought down on Saturday. It’s part of a move to make way for 40-unit project costing between $3.5 million and $5.5 million by Saint John Non Profit Housing.

Coun. Shirley McAlary said on Monday that it was time for the city to divest itself of excess properties.

“It’s been nine years and we haven’t moved forward on it as a city and we had the opportunity this time to work with Saint John Non-Profit Housing which is a very good operation,” McAlary said.

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But former Saint John city heritage planner Jim Bezanson said on Monday that he had brought forward various proposals to the city over the past several years that would have seen the buildings preserved and restored.

WATCH: Despite efforts to save them, these three historic buildings in uptown Saint John are no more. Better known as the jelly bean houses, they’re coming down to make way for a housing development. Andrew Cromwell reports.

Click to play video: 'Saint John ‘Jelly Bean’ buildings make way for new housing development' Saint John ‘Jelly Bean’ buildings make way for new housing development
Saint John ‘Jelly Bean’ buildings make way for new housing development – Apr 8, 2017

He said he had secured $5 million for a project he envisioned as part of an arts district. Incorporating the “Jelly Bean Houses,” the project would have included residential units with 20 per cent reserved for artists as a free live/work space that would also benefit the city.

 

“The works that the artists were doing in exchange for their living would be donated free to the city of Saint John,” Bezanson explained. “They would then go into common spaces where all citizens in Saint John can view.”

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Bezanson said he never heard back from the city on any of his proposals. The city says it did issue a call via a Request for Proposals during the 2013/2014 period, none of which were accepted by Common Council. It also says during that period several prospective buyers were brought through the properties.

McAlary said though the houses are no more, it doesn’t mean the city is undervaluing its heritage.

“For us in Saint John, we do preserve our history and we keep as many buildings as we can,” McAlary said. “But you can’t always keep them all.”

Saint John Non-Profit housing has said it would try to salvage as much as it could from the buildings in hopes of using them in the future.

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