Following months of planning and labour, the Area 506 Waterfront Container Village in Saint John opened its gates to crowds of tourists and locals Wednesday morning.
It consists of 54 painted shipping containers used to host local vendors, food trucks, a stage for concerts and events such as the Area 506 Festival, and space for visitors to enjoy the views – all right next to the Marco Polo Cruise Terminal.
“The waterfront in Saint John was just the absolute ideal spot and how it works with cruise traffic, as well as local residents, as well as local tourism, it’s just an idea that really comes together well,” said Ray Gracewood, the founder of Area 506.
Tourists on board the Oasis of the Seas — the fourth-largest cruise vessel in the world — became the first official visitors to the village when the ship arrived in the port city early Wednesday.
According to Gracewood, the 27 vendors on site is on par with his vision for the unique space, which puts an emphasis on local.
“Part of the Area 506 DNA has been supporting local businesses, and we wanted to create a platform for those local businesses to tell their story in a way that makes sense for them,” Gracewood said.
Businesses situated in the vendor village cover retail, food and beverage, and tourism, ranging in size from small operators to large-scale companies.
For Alicia Barry, the founder of The Sugar Spider, a gourmet confectionary business located in Uptown Saint John, the opportunity to set up a shop in the village was too good to pass up.
“When we first heard about it, we thought it would be a great opportunity for us just starting a business to come down be part of the village and meet all the tourists,” Barry said.
Along a 120-foot stretch of containers, visitors can view the work of several artists, which makes up the graffiti alley.
While the site is near completion and the aesthetic has now been created, Gracewood is excited to see it in action over the coming months with different shows and activities on the schedule, as well as the Area 506 Festival.
However, even just moments after opening the village, Gracewood continued to think about the long-term vision for his site and what it could become.
“I think this is going to be a great piece of local product that the Saint John region can take a lot of pride in, but I think if I was to fast-forward five years, I would love to see this on the national scale as a place where people want to come to.”