The east end of Duckworth Street in St. John’s will look drastically different if a proposed development goes through.
Members of city council who attended a planning committee meeting earlier this week all seemed pleased with what a proposed pair of buildings will look like.
Republic Properties wants to replace the former Crazy Horse bar with a hotel, designed somewhat in the style of the well-known wedge-shaped Gridiron building in New York City. Across the street — where the former east end Fire Station is currently being used for storage and city offices — the company wants to add a companion building which would be for long-term accommodations for those in town on business for weeks or months at a time.
The city’s heritage advisory committee has already given the designs the green light, but the developer must file a land use assessment report with the city before it moves on to a public meeting, the next steps in the development process.
Planning committee chairman Coun. Tom Hann said he thinks the proposed buildings will enhance the area and create a gateway into the downtown.
“This will be an example of how new buildings can co-exist in a heritage area with older buildings. And the design of the exterior and everything else. It fits right in,” he said.
Hann said he thinks when people see the drawings of the proposed buildings, they’ll approve.
He said issues about traffic sightlines in the area have already been addressed by the developer in the proposed designs.
But a controversy may still be brewing.
The company has secured an option to buy city-owned land — the site of the former fire station — for $556,000, if and when the project gets final approval from council.
Republic Properties first secured that option to buy last year, and recently had the deadline for the option extended by council.
But both times council voted on the option to buy there was opposition from the council table. Concerns were raised over how the option was obtained.
While some councillors changed their vote when the extension was put to a vote earlier this month, Couns. Frank Galgay and Sheilagh O’Leary, along with Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff contend the process was unfair.
Those members of council want to auction off the land to the highest bidder, if it is to be sold at all.
That way, they say, the city wouldn’t be giving favourable treatment to one developer over others.