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Dilapidated Brown House in Saint John loses heritage status

Click to play video: 'Heritage property in Saint John to be demolished'
Heritage property in Saint John to be demolished
WATCH: Significant efforts to save a heritage property in Saint John have fallen short. The city has now paved the way for the 81-year-old home, known as the Brown House, to be demolished and replaced with a park. Robert Lothian reports – Aug 23, 2022

Efforts to save the dilapidated Uptown Saint John building, commonly referred to as the “Brown House,” have fallen short.

Saint John Common Council proceeded with necessary steps Monday to strip the King St. E. property and two vacant lots of their heritage status.

Plans by owner J.D. Irving Ltd. (JDI) to turn the property into a park had previously been stymied by the property’s heritage status, which required the council’s permission to be lifted.

On Monday, council voted 6-3 in favour of demolition.

J.D. Irving did not make anyone available for an interview.

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While the property has fallen victim to neglect, residents have stood up for the Brown House.

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In recent weeks, demonstrations have been held along the property’s front lawn, and petitions have circulated throughout the city.

“I was incredibly disappointed. I mean, council sent the message loud and clear that they are okay with the corporate capture of our city,” said Sarah Stashick.

Stashick, who helped organize the demonstrations, said she opposes the “special treatment” given to J.D. Irving by council.

“Council set a precedent last night. JDI showed everybody else how to do it, and council made it clear that they’re okay with it,” Stashick added.

The final decision did not come without hours of spirited debate in council chambers.

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As part of a last-ditch effort to at least postpone the decision, Coun. Joanna Killen brought forward a motion to table the vote until later this year, allowing staff more time to research options.

Killen, the chair of the city’s growth committee, said while Monday’s decision involved designation, it also intersected with housing.

“I have a lot of really exciting new policy propositions and I just wanted to take a minute to see if we could look at that and then come back for a third reading decision that looks at the options we may have in front of us to have changed the outcome for this building,” Killen said Tuesday in an interview with Global News.

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Killen was one of the three councillors to vote against de-designating the Brown House. She hopes the city can use this experience to develop policies to prevent similar situations in the future.

“This is a red flag and one that we as policymakers have to take a hard look at, learn from and then go ahead to design new policy that’s actually going to prevent that from happening, again,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Many opposed to decision to strip Saint John property of heritage designation'
Many opposed to decision to strip Saint John property of heritage designation

A representative for J.D. Irving presenting to council Monday outlined plans to incorporate historical and educational elements into the park. Plans include storyboards and repurposing elements of the existing building into the design.

Changes were also made to the language in the company’s 20-year maintenance commitment.

While there is no firm date for the demolition of the Brown House, J.D. Irving expects to finish construction of the park by Sept. 2023.

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