February 01, 2011
Coast Guard site could be home to major Canadian hotel
SAINT JOHN - The city has purchased prime waterfront property for $2.8 million in a long-awaited deal that will eventually see a hotel, condominiums, office space and retail replacing buoys, concrete and Coast Guard equipment.
Photo: Kâté Braydon/Telegraph-Journal
Kent MacIntyre, general manager of the Saint John Waterfront Development, speaks with reporters outside the common council meeting Monday night. Charlie Swanton, chairman of Saint John Waterfront Development, addresses common council Monday night. He says an office building could be the first structure to go up on the Coast Guard site.
"It is, no question, the most advantageous location in the city," Kent MacIntyre, general manager of Saint John Waterfront Development, said after the deal was announced at common council Monday night.
"It's at the bottom of King Street, it's waterfront property, it's the centre of the downtown core. So this will be a primary space that will be significant and will make our job easier to attract developers on such a significant site."
The deal places six acres of property on the east side of the harbour - now used by the Coast Guard - in city hands before it is resold to the Hardman Group, which owns Market Square nearby.
While Mayor Ivan Court said ground could be broken as soon as the spring, that may be a bit optimistic, said Charlie Swanton, chairman of the waterfront group, in an interview outside the council chambers.
"I think we'd like to do it by the summer or fall," said Swanton, who has been involved in negotiations his entire eight years as chairman.
An office complex could be the first building to go up, he said, adding more details would be divulged in future announcements.
The site could also be the home to a "major Canadian hotel firm," which has expressed interest in using the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre nearby, and which also wants to connect to the pedway - allowing people to reach the City Market indoors, Swanton said.
The city also wants to continue leasing the office space now used by the Coast Guard. The building is about 40 per cent full.
"What's important is to keep as many people uptown as we can," Swanton said.
The city is buying the land from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in two phases. The first is by April 1 at $832,000 and the second, for about $2 million, is by June 1, 2012. Swanton said the Coast Guard needs time to move its equipment from the waterfront.
The land will then be resold back to the Hardman Group, which has had a strong interest in the site from the beginning.
"The city will keep the administration and shop buildings and the rest of it will be portioned off to the Hardman Group," Swanton said.
He said the $2.8-million purchase price is slightly below market value and the city will get back its investment when the land is resold. The agreed price was an average of appraisals, he said.
The city has been talking about buying the Coast Guard site for 10 years, with formal discussions starting in 2005.
Swanton said the economic downturn and going through several appraisal reports contributed to the delay.
"Everything takes a bit longer when you're dealing with different levels of government," he said.
This will be the first major private development on the waterfront since 1992, according to a city press release.
The mayor thanked the waterfront development group for sticking with negotiations for so long.
"We were hoping it'd be before Christmas, but it's a late Christmas present," he said during council.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Chase said the development will significantly change the downtown core."When you drive across the Harbour Bridge, that drive is one of my favourite passages in the city," he said. "You can see how magnificent the city is. It is a beautiful city. And that addition of the Coast Guard site will make it even more marvellous."