Buildings at the former Canadian Coast Guard site being turned into retail, residential spaces

Click to play video 'Buildings at the former Canadian Coast guard are being demolished' Buildings at the former Canadian Coast guard are being demolished
Officials in Saint John say the demolition is necessary to clear the way for new development. Tim Roszell reports – May 24, 2019

Officials in Saint John are calling it a big step in the makeover of the city’s uptown.

Demolition began Friday morning on the remaining buildings at the former Canadian Coast Guard site.

Backhoes worked through early-morning rain, clawing down a helicopter hanger beside a former administration building.

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Develop Saint John solicited applications for re-purposing the site with potential residential, retail, commercial and other opportunities.

Developers got a collective shot in the arm this week when the federal government announced funding to upgrade the break wall at Saint John Harbour.

“We’ve got a really interesting opportunity here now,” said Develop Saint John CEO Steve Carson. “With three levels of government, we had the federal funding announcement this week, the other levels of government all want to invest in the site. And we’ve got significant private sector investment and residential demand.”

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Getting to this point has taken some time.

The previous Liberal government announced last year the site would be home to the New Brunswick Museum. Current Premier Blaine Higgs scrapped those plans shortly after taking office following the Progressive Conservatives’ provincial election victory.

Once the site is cleared, it will be prepared to host Area 506. The music festival was forced to abandon plans to hold it at Long Wharf.

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Saint John Mayor Don Darling believes having Area 506 in the heart of uptown is a “win-win scenario.”

“I think it’s going to go very, very well in the fourth year,” Darling said of Area 506. “I’m sure attendance is going to be up. I think it will, as we wrap up and clean up from that festival, I think it’s going to prove to us that that is a marquee site for events like that in the future as well.

“(Area) 506 is going to be an opportunity for the public and the province to be reintroduced to what is, arguably, the finest development site in Atlantic Canada,” Carson said.

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Demolition and clearing of the site are expected to wrap up mid-June, just in time for Carson and Develop Saint John to provide an update to Saint John Common Council. Depending on the status of negotiations, Carson says that update could include details of the successful redevelopment bid.