The west end of downtown St. John’s has become a hotbed of proposed activity, and could see four new, commercial buildings built within the next year or so.
There are four developments in the same general area. The only one that has been approved so far is a five-storey hotel on the north side of Water Street between Gaze Seeds and the Magic Wok restaurant.
But the city has also received other applications which are in various stages of approval. They include a 12-storey Class A office building on the former Horwood Lumber property off Springdale Street and between Water and New Gower streets; a12-storey hotel for the corner of Springdale and New Gower streets at the foot of Pleasant Street and a recent application for an eight-storey office building and three-storey parking garage on Job Street at the bottom of Hamilton Avenue.
The Telegram met with the city’s director of planning Cliff Johnston last week as well as the manager of planning and information Ken O’Brien.
Johnston said the applications are coming in for the area because building sites are becoming available. But he said it’s more of a coincidence that all four proposals are in the works at the same time, than any effort by the city.
“It helps, I suppose, if you can look at (an area) comprehensively, but it’s not critical,” Johnston said.
H said information from each development may be helpful for city planners as they examine how each fits in to the overall area.
The city has targeted the area as one which it would like to see redeveloped.
“The (city’s) municipal plan has, for a number of years, talked about promoting high-density office development in the west end of downtown because basically lands are available, they can be serviced (and) you have good road access, particularly from the harbour arterial,” said Johnston.
He also said the area has fewer residents who will be directly impacted by development than the east-end of downtown, and the district is not in a heritage area.
“The (city’s) municipal plan has, for a number of years, talked about promoting high-density office development in the west end of downtown because basically lands are available, they can be serviced (and) you have good road access, particularly from the harbour arterial." - Cliff Johnston
“Topography plays a role.” added O’Brien. “The bowl of the harbour is a lot tighter in the east-end. The west end is flatter and there are longer hills (and more gradual inclines), so if you put a tall building there you’re not blocking views to the same impact as you would on the steep side of the harbour.”
Ward 2 Coun. Frank Galgay is the chair of the city’s planning committee and the councillor for the downtown.
“The area has been traditionally looked upon as a holding area in anticipation of growth,” he told The Telegram. “And with the spinoffs accruing to the development of offshore oil, the demand for development in this area has increased.”
Galgay said he’s pleased with the proposals, which will mean significant construction jobs in the city, increased commercial tax revenue from the buildings and will bring new life to the area.
He said historically the area has been largely industrial and commercial since before Confederation. Galgay said besides the dockyard and former train station, the area used be home to Horwood Lumber, the Newfoundland Boot and Shoe Co. and the United Nail and Foundry Co.
Coun. Tom Hann is also happy the area is being revitalized.
“It is a good thing, simply because it’s Class A office space going up, that we need, more hotel rooms that we need,” he said. “I think it’s good for the city.”
“However, some people are now asking the question ... how come everything is being concentrated in the west end?” Hann added.
He said for people who live in the area that’s a legitimate question, and residents concerns will be taken into account as the proposals wind their way through the development process.
But he agrees with staff that the west end of downtown is more conducive to development for a number of reasons.