The Saint John Port Authority is proposing the establishment of a container village along the waterfront in the city’s uptown.
A container village is a collection of shipping containers that are repurposed into various types of shopping outlets.
Port Saint John’s communications and corporate social responsibility director, Paula Copeland, said the village would be along Water Street, between Port Saint John’s main cruise terminals and the soon-to-be-redeveloped Fundy Quay.
A brief description of the plan is posted on the federal government’s Impact Assessment Agency of Canada website. It said a village could include retail and hospitality space along with a stage, lounge area and plaza.
“This tourism infrastructure will facilitate the safe movement of passengers and crew from the ships to the city center, and will convert unoccupied industrial space for use by residents and tourists,” the website said.
Copeland said the idea has been discussed with various stakeholders for a couple of years, but the timing is right to push it forward.
“Partially, it’s an ideal time for a stimulation of the area that we’re talking about,” Copeland said. “It’s an ideal timing with (the) need for attractions for our local residents to enjoy, and it does enhance future tourism opportunities, not only for our cruise guests but other visitors.”
Container villages have been established elsewhere in Canada and around the world.
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Area 506, an annual music and arts festival held in Saint John, utilizes a container village of vendors.
“The model itself sort of allows a lot of flexibility for those vendors to create pop-up experiences or relatively low-involvement versus a more permanent structure in a retail location or a mall,” said Area 506 founder and committee chair Ray Gracewood.
He said the concept works for Area 506 because it plays into the city’s industrial roots.
Copeland stressed the project is in the very early discussion phase and no final decisions have been made. Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) is assessing the potential environmental impact of the plan and is inviting public feedback through March 22, 2021.
A 2022 launch to coincide with the expected return of cruise ships to the region would be ideal, Copeland said.
The port was expecting a record-breaking year in 2020 with 90 vessels and more than 200,000 passengers expected to call on Saint John before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the season. The federal government banned cruise ships from Canadian waters through February 2022.
“In order to continue to stimulate a cruise market and make it interesting for visitors, we are always seeking new developments that could enhance the experience of cruise guests,” Copeland said.
Copeland could not say what the plan would cost.
Port Saint John has submitted funding applications to ACOA and the Regional Development Corporation (RDC).