“Out of the ashes” could aptly describe a new six-storey office tower, estimated to cost more than $50 million, proposed for 351 Water St. in downtown St. John’s.
Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff says the building, to be constructed by East Port Properties Ltd. between Water Street and Harbour Drive, will be on a site that was once actually part of the city’s harbour.
When two great fires destroyed many of the wooden buildings in the downtown core in 1846 and 1892, Duff said the city shovelled up the debris and dumped it in this area, filling in part of the harbour.
The harbour was much bigger then and Water Street was the end of St. John’s, Duff said.
“The beaches actually came up to where the Magic Wok is now.”
The site was most recently used as a Woolworth’s department store, but the building had been vacant for years and had become dilapidated.
The new building will be much more elaborate.
Developed by East Port Properties Ltd. and designed by PHB Group, it will include a 165,000 square-foot office tower above retail and commercial space and a 446-car parking garage, which will include 246 public spaces.
It will also be the first seawater heated and cooled building in the province, tapping into the seawater beneath the property.
Duff said it will likely be quite an engineering feat for the developer to get down to bedrock and to the ocean and build such a large office tower and parking garage on top of the site.
Duff said the old Woolworth’s site was “crying out for development for many years” and had become “kind of a blight on the downtown.”
“That location also expands what our concept of the downtown is, it has brought development further west,” she said.
Duff said the development has already been a catalyst for three or four other clusters of Class A office or hotel developments which, she said, “is generally what happens. You get one big one and others follow.”
She’s pleased with the plan to have retail space on the ground floor, which will attract people to the west end of the downtown. A combination of public metered and permit parking should help address downtown parking issues, especially when there are events at Mile One.
It was too wet to hold an official groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site Thursday, but representatives from East Port Properties and the city announced the start of the project at the St. John’s Convention Centre.
It’s said to be the first new office building downtown in more than 25 years.
John Lindsay, president of East Port Properties, said his company also manages Scotia Centre which was the last large office building built downtown.
The completion date for the new building, dubbed “351” because of its address on Water Street, is 2013.
Lindsay said the heating and cooling will be provided using the tide water that still moves in and out beneath the building.
“We’ve done seawater cooling before where we put a pipe out into the harbour. In this one, the harbour is coming to us — it’s just the nature of the site,” Lindsay said.
“It has both a cost benefit, because you’re using free cooling, you’re not running a machine using electricity to create cooling or heat, and you also are just letting that go back to the harbour virtually untouched.”
Anyone can rent office space in the building, Lindsay said, and it has already attracted interest from the oil and gas sector.
The company expects tenants will begin moving into the building in the fourth quarter of 2013.