Years after a decision was made to renew the waterfront area in Saint John, NB, developments are now underway in just about every corner of the city.
Between revitalizing the uptown area, transforming the waterfront and upgrading the city’s port, it seems there’s no shortage of growth happening around the port city.
The former mayor of Saint John, Don Darling, says he feels something of a new vibe in Canada’s oldest incorporated city — indications of growth.
“There’s a lot of people, a lot of momentum, construction, cranes, new buildings,” said Darling.
It all started with the decision to renew Saint John’s waterfront with the high-profile Fundy Quay project.
The project by the Fundy Harbor Group is a mixed-use development that will see the construction of five buildings, which will include hundreds of residential units.
“There’s going to be new businesses, world-class public space, it’s really going to change the way people experience the waterfront in Saint John,” said Jeffrey Cyr, the director of growth for Envision Saint John.
“We’re going to have almost 700 residential units here,” Darling said. “We’re going to have new commercial space here and, again, we’re filling in one of the most prime waterfront pieces of real estate in Atlantic Canada.”
“So, there’s a lot of enthusiasm around this site and you feel that momentum in the city. People are talking about it, they’re excited about it.”
As the pandemic helped grow Saint John’s population, so too did the need for more places to call home — something the waterfront development should help.
The project is also expected to attract more locals back to the water — the focal point of the port city.
“We’ve seen that trend, particularly with Baby Boomers, who are selling their homes, getting rid of their lawns and their lawn care, and wanting to walk to work or live a simpler life,” said Darling. “And we’ve seen our uptown actually outpacing the growth in any other area in our city.”
“We walk around and I think about the conversations that we had two, three, four and five years ago and seeing it come to life now, there’s an awful lot of pride, and not just for me, but for the citizens of this city as well.”
The Fundy Quay project is expected to be an eight to 10-year process for full build out.
Port Saint John is also being primed to double the amount of cargo it can handle between 2023 and 2029.
“I mean, what’s happening at the port, we really are positioned to be the biggest opportunity on the whole eastern seaboard to an extent,” said Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon.
Reardon says a brighter future is now emerging for the city with a long-term financial plan in place now, something Saint John didn’t have previously.
“We had zero in reserves, we now have $33 million in reserves, so we have far better footing,” she said. “It gives us more flexibility to have that little bit of money and to be paying down that debt.”
Reardon says she doesn’t recall a time the city had so much development happening at once, but is happy to see it come to life.
“While I was on council, we did a lot of work to get our financial footing in place. We needed a budget that was sustainable, there was a lot of tough decisions we made, we brought in a lot of policies that were guiding us financially, we have a long-term financial plan now,” she said.
“So, there was a lot of things that we changed, and as we changed our financial picture, we started to see things begin to happen, really begin to happen.”