A major development proposal for the east end of downtown St. John’s was approved during Monday’s council meeting.
© — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Coun. David Lane speaks at Monday’s St. John’s city council meeting about a development proposal for the east end of Duckworth Street.
The Light House Project is a development of Republic Properties Inc. that will see a new hotel and apartments at 83 and 90 Duckworth St.
The proposal has been an open file for council for about two years and was given the green light during the meeting, although not without some criticism.
Council has heard concerns from area residents and neighbouring businesses about parking, traffic congestion, shadowing and how well the new development will click with the historic esthetics of the existing properties. The most outspoken voice for these concerns at Monday’s meeting was Coun. David Lane, who read from a statement he had prepared.
“Mark my words, this development will irrevocably alter the entrance to our historic downtown,” Lane said.
Lane put a motion forward to have the project height reduced by one floor, although that motion was not passed by council.
Coun. Tom Hann cautioned against inserting such an amendment to the development, a change that would make little difference to how the project would affect downtown, he said, but could have large economic consequences for the developers.
“What will happen with the economics of a project this size — a $20-million project — if they lose one floor? How many units will they lose and so on?”
Hann warned to proceed with caution with a change that could mean the developers would bail on the idea.
Others agreed with Hann that reducing the height of the project by one floor was of little value to the city.
Coun. Bruce Tilly pointed out that the development at Cavendish Square was already taller than the proposed Light House Project.
“So why you’d want to reduce it is beyond me,” he said.
There was also much support from council for a development that would help revitalize a section of downtown that council has been hoping to redevelop for some time.
Part of the development will be on the current site of the Crazy Horse strip club.
Lane said it was an exciting project, and one with many benefits. In the end, he also voted in favour of the project’s approval.
However, he said he was concerned with the process of how developments gain approval, including those that need council’s permission to break certain bylaws. He also raised the issue of looking at downtown development beyond a project-by-project basis.
“Why is it that we don’t seem to have a clear unifying vision and a plan for the most important area of our city?” Lane asked.
In addition to the hotel and apartments, the development will have parking and retail space.