Proposed rooftop hotel would drastically change Atlantic Place parking garage

Bonnie Belec
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St. John’s Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff may not get her wish that the Atlantic Place parking garage would one day implode, but she will get to see its transformation.

The Department of Municipal Affairs has given the city permission to amend its regulations that will allow the construction of a three-storey hotel on top of the existing eight-storey parking garage at 1 Clift’s-Baird’s Cove between Harbour Drive and Water Street next to Atlantic Place.

The city must now host a meeting, scheduled for July 4 at 7 p.m., to give the public a chance to have its say on the project and the proposed changes to city regulations.

Dubbed the APP Hotel, Duff said recently she was impressed with the design — created by architect Philip Pratt on behalf of Sonco Group Inc.

“I used to hope that one day I’d be wheeled down there in a wheelchair and see it imploded because it is such an ugly building,” she said.

“But I was actually quite amazed and pleased to see what they brought in with the proposal for the hotel. It is very creative,” Duff said.

Documentation provided to the city says the boutique hotel will have up to 150 rooms, a main entrance on Harbour Drive and a two-level atrium to the Water Street level.

“On balance, we believe that this is a good project for the owner and the city,” reads Sonco’s proposal, entitled Hidden in Plain View.

“It adds value for both, improves the overall image of the garage in its context, animates the area with more activity, protects the parking and, as an infill, there is very little extra stress on infrastructure.”

All are reasons why St. John’s Coun. Tom Hann supports the project.

“It’s a solution to cleaning up the look of the Atlantic Place parking garage. It is a nice-looking, three-storey hotel on top of the building — on top of the parking garage — which will bring it up to the same height as Atlantic Place and it will not affect any views,” said the chairman of the planning and housing standing committee.


The proposal says the parking garage will be covered with mesh screening, which “will give colour and texture to the building and improve its overall look.”

There is also special lighting proposed to make the building more esthetically appealing.

“Once they get that done I think it will improve the look of the building significantly,” said Hann.

The one concern the deputy mayor has, which has nothing to do with the hotel proposal, goes back to when the garage was built more than four decades ago to complement the commercial development at Atlantic Place.

“One of the issues for me has always been with Harbour Drive. The sidewalks on that side are very narrow and it’s actually dangerous, and one thing about livable cities is they have to be walkable cities,” Duff said.

Hann said the developer has also considered that and is proposing to put recessed brick on the ground floor so the sidewalk will be wider.

Duff, who sits on the committee with Hann, said the committee has asked city staff if it’s possible to narrow the traffic lanes in order to provide more space for pedestrians.

“So cars will have to sacrifice a little bit of space to people, which I think will be great,” she said.


Parking spaces

According to the documentation, 50 parking spaces of the 720 now available in the garage will be lost to the development.  

The project was largely in response to a process initiated by the city in 2011 to make changes to its regulations so it could restrict the use of the parking garage.

“We wanted to confirm that site would remain a parking garage,” said Hann. “We were saying leave the bottom alone. What they do on top is up to them, within the discretion of the city.”

A planning memo says Sonco’s objective “is to balance the needs of the city with those of the property owner by securing a large number of parking spaces for public rental while allowing for the opportunity to generate additional income for the owner.”

The application may be viewed at the city’s department of planning, development and engineering.

Anyone wishing to make a submission to the public meeting must provide a signed written statement to the city clerk’s department either by mail (P.O. Box 908, St. John’s, NL A1C 5M2), fax (709-576-8474) or email (

Organizations: Department of Municipal Affairs, Sonco Group

Geographic location: Atlantic Place, Water Street, Plain View

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Recent comments

  • ...come on
    June 20, 2013 - 11:20

    @come on... narrowing traffic lanes typically forces drivers to reduce their speeds and results in fewer accidents. The waterfront is not a highway - it should be redesigned for people, and shared with cars and not the current model where the "needs" of drivers outweigh those of pedestrians. Regardless, the reno looks terrible. Increasing the height won't fix the original design flaws. Imploding it and investing in parking further west, and better public transportation would. St. John's had a more developed public transportation in 1900 then it does today.

  • glynn morrissey
    June 14, 2013 - 12:08

    I always hated this building on the waterfront of the city...that and Atlantic Place. The parking garage looks like the toothless grin of a bad joke gone wrong. Atlantic Place looks like brick box. Both defeat the look of the architecture of the city and definetly take away from the beautiful views. To me this improvement will do nothing except enhance it's grossness of development gone wrong. The better design would be something similar to the Rooms concept where our heritage of vernacular architecture in NL is reflected. Pratt has done his best to repair the overall look but in the end I fear it will look like an insane asylum or other such institution....sitting right on the beautiful water front of the old city!

  • Maggy Carter
    June 14, 2013 - 09:17

    This was, is and will continue to be an ugly building - that includes Atlantic Place itself. Mr. Pratt no doubt did his best but his design is still akin to lipstick on a pig. Not that anyone walking along Water Street or Harbour Drive will notice, of course. The hotel units are recessed, so they're only visible from across the harbour. As for coloured screens improving the 'overall look' of the building - you've got to be kidding. How long before the screens become clogged with dirt to the point that exhaust fumes in the garage become an issue? And perhaps Mr. Hann could explain how the choice of recessed brick versus concrete will make the sidewalk wider. Ms. Duff says she'd like to see the roadway narrowed to make more room for pedestrians. No problem. Mr. Pratt has already used his magic pen - not only to widen the sidewalk - but to add four new lanes and a grassy median on Harbour Drive. That's right - Harbour Drive has only one lane of traffic in each direction at the moment, but Sonoco's drawings courtesy of Mr. Pratt now show three lanes of traffic in each direction. Where exactly is the Port Authority going to put that ugly new city taxpayer funded fence so as to allow six lanes of traffic and a median? In the harbour per chance. This is hucksterism at its worst - as is the phoney July 4th public meeting. Why is it that governments at every level have such a hard time telling the truth. Why is it that council can't simply acknowledge that - faced with a threat that the owners might make an application to tear down the garage to put up something more profitable - it decided to cut a back room deal? And maybe this is the best deal they could get. But please stop trying to con the public into believing that this is a wonderful architectural enhancement to Harbour Drive - anymore than that giant Keg/Port Authority monstrosity you approved up the street. Can't wait for September.

  • picky
    June 14, 2013 - 09:02

    This won't get council approval because some resident will complain the the hotel will block the view of the fuel storage tanks on the southside hills.

  • Downtown resident
    June 14, 2013 - 08:22

    It's great that you can see our city expanding and that we are doing well,but where is all the parking going to be for these hotels and buildings I know the city are saying that parking garages are there for these hotels but there are already 50 parking spots going already,you can,t get parking now at the Atlantic place when you have business in thedowntown area,water street is almost impassible with the high volumes of traffic,god forbid if you are wheelchair or disabled Water street has 3-4 disabled parking the Waterfront has neither one so forget eating at the Keg or any other restaurant if you are wheelchair.I wonder where Marie White is now she was so vocal for awhile when it came to people with disabilities and parking I guess she don't shop or eat in the downtown area anymore.Maybe it's time to turn Water St oneway and the Waterfront the opposite way.Just a suggestion.But councilors work on the disable parking in the downtown another thing if store owners don't clear their sidewalks it's useless to have a disable spot in front of their business.

  • Come on
    June 14, 2013 - 07:53

    Duff wants to narrow the traffic lanes for wider sidewalks???? Really??? Spend thousands to widen the sidewalk maybe a foot?? Then we will have more car accidents and they will have to widen the traffic lane in a few years.