Revitalizing the west end of downtown

Dave Bartlett
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Two hotels, two office buildings in various stages of approval

— Telegram file photo

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.

 

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland Boot and Shoe Co.

Geographic location: Springdale Street, Water Street, Pleasant Street Job Street

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Recent comments

  • Edgar
    May 20, 2011 - 12:25

    We need more mixed use development in St. John's and less cookie cutter housing and office parks. Urbanism: Part 1 of 9 - every city planner should see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwd4Lq0Xvgc

  • Peter
    May 16, 2011 - 14:38

    The City should ask the four developers to get together with city officials to see if they can come up with a vision for the area...for example, should they all be inter-connected via walkways and linked with the Delta through to Mile One and the Convention Centre?

  • Andrew
    May 16, 2011 - 11:00

    It's great to see building development downtown. If this is handled well by the city and the developers it could help revitalize the area. I hope they will all consider how to make the west end accessible and attractive to foot traffic. Usually this doesn't seem to get much attention in St. John's. It's important however, as it will make the difference between a thriving district and an office-tower wasteland. The ultimate success of these new developments and perhaps of the whole downtown could lie in this balance.

  • mary
    May 16, 2011 - 09:51

    It's great to hear!! It's about time things are starting to happen to vitalize the west end. It's looked so drab for so many years except for the Delta etc. We may even get some fancy lighting like water and the East end. Everything ended at Waldgrave and Water.

    • Gary
      May 17, 2011 - 11:23

      Definitely good for the city and those are good suggestions - extending the lighting as suggested by Mary and making it a walkable area as suggested by Andrew and Peter. Here's a great chance for good area planning.

  • Jim
    May 16, 2011 - 09:47

    I like development but what about the amount of traffic congestion down there now? Would not be fun getting to and from work.

    • chad
      May 16, 2011 - 11:08

      A little congestion is expected, but at least the west end of downtown has a stronger road system than the east end. The highway, along with 4-lanes of traffic on New Gower and Water Street West will certainly help to keep flow better than on a tight two-way street such as Duckworth, Water Street east, etc.

  • anonymous
    May 16, 2011 - 09:36

    The reason this is all being concentrated in downtown west is because the area is mostly made up of low-income rentals and residents who don't pay taxes. The area is as historic as downtown east, if not more so, but the residents there are unlikely to raise the same holy hell as the yuppies and rubber booters living on Gower Street who are afraid of the property value of their homes dropping because of the harbor view being blocked by an office tower. Most of these "heritage" protesters don't care one whit about heritage, this is NIMBYism plain and simple.

  • Newfoundland Proud
    May 16, 2011 - 08:30

    “However, some people are now asking the question ... how come everything is being concentrated in the west end?” Hann added. The reason for this is because everyone knows that Shannie and her cronies won't allow any prosperity on the East End of Water Street...please see previous Fortis articles!!!!!