Facelift for George

Alisha Morrissey
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St. John's Council Plan approved in principle; now where's the cash?

One of Canada's oldest and best-known streets might be getting a facelift if there's enough cash to get the work done.

St. John's city council was presented with a view of what George Street could look like if the suggested redevelopment is done on it, and most of the councillors were pretty pleased with what they saw.

One of Canada's oldest and best-known streets might be getting a facelift if there's enough cash to get the work done.

St. John's city council was presented with a view of what George Street could look like if the suggested redevelopment is done on it, and most of the councillors were pretty pleased with what they saw.

But the price of the makeover was what really caught most of council's collective eye.

According to current estimates by the PHB Group, which was commissioned in 2005 to carry out a study on how to improve the downtown street, the redesign will cost just shy of $19 million.

The redevelopment study suggests the perception of the street should change from a hopping area for nightlife, into a multi-use area, where everyone is welcome night and day.

Power lines would be buried, decks and sidewalks would be concrete and the road would be repaved. There would be more of a focus on the pedestrian and vehicles would only access certain parts of the street in cases of emergency or deliveries.

The use of the street would be extended into the day with designated areas for planned activities, like childrens' programs or art classes and there would be an area for a potential street market.

Most importantly, the stage area would be rebuilt and highlighted as a high-end outdoor performance space with built-in seating.

The study suggests doing the work in phases and points out which areas would be best places to start.

Council approved the plan in principal, acknowledging there was as yet, no financial commitment to the project.

Several councillors also raised the idea of partnering on the costs with the province, provincial agencies like the Newfoundland Liquor Corp., bars and businesses in the area and federal cost-sharing programs.

Rather be ready

Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff says she'd rather be ready when the money comes than start planning when cash is on the table.

"I like the plan, but it might not be the highest priority right now," Duff said. Most of council agreed.

Coun. Tom Hann said he wants to know as soon as possible at what level private business is willing to contribute and Mayor Dennis O'Keefe insisted other levels of government would have to pay their share to improve the well-known tourist destination.

"Yeah, we can't do it on our own ... but it's part of our tourism infrastructure," O'Keefe said, pointing out tourism is worth $300 million to St. John's and about $1 billion to the province.

The only councillor to vote against accepting the plan was Wally Collins, who said if council chose to accept the plan now, it would have to find the money somewhere down the road.

The city has already held public meetings about the redevelopment plan with positive results, and with a 10 to one vote will start looking at funding partnerships soon.


Organizations: St. John's Council Plan, PHB Group, Newfoundland Liquor

Geographic location: St. John's, Canada, George Street

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Recent comments

  • David
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    For those who took the time to read the study it will bring a new element to the downtown similar to the Market in Ottawa. The problem is the price tag. The City needs a major cost sharing partner to make this happen, ie. NLC. The bar owners will sure kick in.... NOT. All they will do is complain about lost business during the construction phase.

    Another option to explore for funding the project would be to let the George Street bar patrons fund the project via a drink tax added to every beverage. 25 cents from every drink purchased would go towards financing the project. It wouldn't take long to round up 19 million that way. Bridge projects are financed in this way vis tolls, no reason it couldn't work for this project.

  • how silly
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    Here is a novel Idea, keep the punks out of the playgrounds and allow the families with kids hang there. We don't need bawling brats running around on George street irritating the adults in their playground.

  • edmund
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    How can the backward thinking bunch at City Hall be serious about this without having to raise property taxes etc. This is the same bunch that recently awarded the Metro Bus contract to a company for more than approximately a half million dollars over the lowest bidder. How can you trust these incapable politicians to make any major decisions, economic or otherwise. They should wait until after the law suit regarding the Metro Bus Depot is over before making any financial decisions as that one will most likely cost them a few million of our tax dollars to settle.

  • Ryan
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Before everyone posts negative comments, you should take 5 mins and go through the actual report


  • Jacob
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Or at least don't shell out 20-30 MILLION to try. Let's be reasonable and try cameras, extra street security, etc. first. And why make it a family area? I really don't understand that. Sure, put in a nice spot for concerts. That's consistent with the successful concepts that make George already successful and famous. It seems that we constantly want to update the old stuff to look modern, but also try to make our modern buildings look old. Well, we already have old buildings. Why should it fall on the taxpayers to make cosmetic changes that aren't necessary? I'd prefer to see the individual owners make upgrades to their own properties on George. This makes better business sense and surely wastes less time and money than a massive undertaking involving the whole street.

  • Hilda
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    My children walk in ditches as dump trucks, cars, tractors, to go to school.
    You plan on a farmers market where the night before some one puked.

    I cross streets and turn my ankle when I play games around potholes.

    I see trash flying in trees on the highway.

    The priority list is upside down in my opinion.

  • R
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Trying to turn an adult entertainment district into a fun loving family affair??? Wake up and smell the coffee!!! Has anyone even considerd parking? I'm falling on deaf ears. Have the club owners pay the entire cost of renovations. They're the one who will reap the profits.

  • Not impressed
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    What a farce ! What morality squad is behind this little George Street fantasy ? It would be much better if St. John's council tried to improve that squatting toad-like structure of horrors overlooking Quidi Vidi - Her Majesty's penitentary.Now there's a moral challenge for you.
    So get crackin's boys and put some pressure on the prisons system.It's long overdue .Where's your sense of priorities been all these decades ?Georeg Street will take care of itself

  • Nick
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I can think of better ways to spend $19 MILLION DOLLARS in St. John's than on something that will just be destroyed by drunks.

  • Rob
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    George Street needs an overhaul. The historic look is charming and nice, but lately George St. looks like a run down block that is condusive to drug sales and street brawls. $19 million is small price to pay to redevelop one of the best attractitions in the city of St. John's. Maybe it could be a shared project with the city, province, and area businesses? The old cheap flags hanging accross the roads and dingy looking buildings is looking pretty dated now a days. Pimp out George St. and the redevelopment will hopefully move the fighting and drugs somewhere else. It not cool for tourists and area residents to see people doing coke in shytty delapitated alleys! Put some pride back into George Street!

  • mom
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Why would council want to Change the perception of the street. when it is the perception of the street that brings in the tourists? I think that making downtown St. John's look just like any other city is a mistake. Who is going to clean up the broken bottles, etc before the kids come for play time? I think a lot more thought has to go into this plan. I have read the redevelopment report and I am disappointed by it. Standard deck and furniture style would further erode the unique nature of not only this street, but our city as well.

  • Fl Newfie
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Look kiddies...that's where all the sloshed idiots vomited and urniated last night...Now, who's up for ice cream!


    • Blue Moonie
      February 09, 2011 - 11:19

      Ok I don't have any kids but would I want them to be there on George Street watching certain drunken types who like to pick fights with whomever? NO!! And what about the smell and stink of vomit and urine around the area? I am sure families with their kiddies will get enough of that soon as they are able to go to the clubs and drink. I just don't see it. And are St. John's city taxpayer going to have to pay for this? In all likelihood. So stop now! I pay enough taxes to have snow dumped in my doorway and sidewalks not cleared of snow and ice.

  • hey
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    bad luck just weaves through the city

    there are devils living among us..
    they're riding the freeways,
    they're locking their front doors at dusk
    they're raising their families
    they're raising their fingers at us

    but this is a good town
    this here is a heavy ancient thing

  • B.
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Don't think it'll work. I'm the first to admit that George Street is largely a dirt-hole of drugs, $keets, and crime but the idea of making it 'family friendly' is crazy and a total waste of money. They should just install a lot of security cameras to deter criminals or at least properly deal with the ones who persist.

  • Stephanie
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I think this is a fabulous idea. George street is well known area and become highly populated with tourists every year. I think a facelift would be a great change for the better. I actually just went throught the report and think that the revisions are amazing! Hope to see it approved and happen within the next few years!

  • Doug
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Has the 'study' been ongoing since 2005? I wonder how much of the $19 million went into the PHB Group's coffers over the last five years?

    As it stands, I think the city should be able to find something better to do with $19 million dollars than jazz-up George Street just so drunken idiots will have a better place to barf at the end of each night.

  • Calvin
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    It's all about the heritage of downtown people. What a joke. 19 million dollars to update a place that will be full of grafitti and pi$$ before the last nail is driven home. I as a family man will NEVER put my kids in a childrens program that is located on George Street. Dont get me wrong, George Street is great for getting smashed and stumbling around on, but this shows just how much the city councilors listen to the public that elected them. There will be unlimited posts on this website condemning this deal before any stage of construction is even approved, but the council will ignore the cries of the taxpaying public and will move ahead on something they figure is a worthwhile investment. And if a protest is held and a couple hundred people show up to voice their concerns, council will say that is not enough of the relevant population speaking out against such a project. Not that I expect a protest to be organized to oppose this, just using it as an example. Here is an idea council, mail a simple ballot to everyone in the city, asking them if they would like 19 million dollars invested in George Street or in the maintenance of city streets and see how the vote turns out. Or 19 million to city parks, or development of a tourist attraction somewhere other than downtown. And dont give me any of that bull about 19 million not being nearly enough to fix the roads in town, because 19 million is better than nothing no matter what business you are in.

  • Blair
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I wanna be the first to puke on it.

  • stephanie
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    God Arent Ye Dumb. They Arent Gonna Put Any Children Programs Down On George So Shuut Up. And Second Of All I Think They Shoud Fix The Potholes In The City , And Put Up More Housing Units For Low-Income Families, Do Something Worth While That Would Actually Last. Cause If THEY Did Clean Up Downtown , Ye All Knows That It Will Be Damaged Within A Weekend Or So. So Whats The Point , It Just Gonna Be A Waste Of Money.

  • Concerned Individual
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    As for us being dumb for mentioning putting children programs on George Street it was the words of the city council not us. We agree it would be rediculous

  • Jerry
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Oh the NIMBYism is alive and well in St. John's again today. I thought it was only council who dissapproved of new development. Do all of you people like to live in filth? Do you like rotting buildings with no paint and dirt filled streets? Like the man said tourism brings in alot of cash to the city, and you need to spend money to make money. Yes lets pave everyones streets brand new who's first? Paving costs money, tourism makes it, if you make more money on tourism you can have better streets. So if you want to live in your dirty run down slum have at it, but don't complain about the potholes.

  • Justin
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Ryan: Thanks for the link. I'm glad I read through that report.

    I like some of what the report has offered, but overall I'm not sold on the plan. There is no reason whatsoever to allot 19 Million Dollars to a George Street redesign right now. I do like the idea of improve the stage and seating area though.

    I am all for the idea of making it more than single-use, but the nightlife is really going to have to stay intact the way it is. You aren't going to be able to have family things happening in one place and boozing in another. (I hope I'm reading that part correctly). George Street IS iconic for the way it is, like it or not. I like the idea of having family oriented events during the day, but it would have to be in the same vein.

    Why not have all-ages open-mics at the pubs and eateries until a certain time? O'Reillys had done that for a while and it was allowed. Or, why not have more on-street concerts during the day?

    I would say, devote 3-5 million dollars on basic upkeep and improvements, and forget the rest for now. It's not necessary to remove the curbs or change the pavement or anything like that. That's frivolous spending I think. And as for produce shops and other stuff mentioned--well, that's what Water Street is for, really. Downtown has a lot of little sectors and they all have their niche. Let that be maintained for the most part.

  • mercedes
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    No,no,no; keep the youngsters out of it! They will find it on their own soon enough. And what parent wants to say that they introduces their children to George Street? Tourists like it just like it is, bars open at noon and no sign of families or kids to feed their guilt!

  • Red
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    OK so we have heard from all of the boring losers who don't use the area now, how about some feedback from people who actually use it. I like potholes, and I think it is a waste of money to fix them only to have them appear the next year again. This is how stupid you sound. Also afraid to walk up George street? You people should go to a real city sometime and see what a real scary street is. Downtown is a festering dump that needs to be levelled and built right. If you want tol preserve some buildings I am sure some of you guys won't mind paying tax dollars to have the buildings relocated to say your neighbourhood. All of you seem to like looking at detriment. I am surprised you didn't try to save the bubble.

  • Concerned Individual
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Really? A new image for George Street? I'm not going to lie and pretend that the street couldn't use some updating, tidying up, and increased safety by reducing vehicle access further...but come on....Children's programs?? Where do you suggest those be held? In the cotton club or Sirens? There are some aspects of life people that we as parents should want to keep our children and to a growing extent these days Pets away from. George Street is recognized throughout the country and adds a lot of historic value to the fabric of this province. Here we go again if its not broke lets fix it. $19 million on one street when there's barely a street in the city where you wouldn't lose a car or child in a pot hole.

  • Alli
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    First off I think it would be a shame to lose the cobble stone off the street - and i for one will put up a real fuss if its my tax dollars that go towards an area that is vandalized nightly and defecated on.
    You want an area for families, develop any of the cleaner and more suitable, parking friendly areas in the city.

  • well
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    facelift???????????????? I know people who wont even walk down that street anymore for safty reasons and i am one of them. Do the city a favor and close the street down

  • John
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Very eloquent Stepanie, I could not have put it better myself. It does sound a little ridiculous, a short while back the braniacs down at the bunker were all patting themselves on the back because they found a million dollars somewhere, and Doc suggested that perhaps they won't have to raise taxes too much. Then they turn around and propose this moronic idea. That area will always be a stinking cesspool, no matter how many hard earned tax dollars are poured into it.

  • h enry
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    yes take the childrenn down teach them how to toke n shoot coke n chug a lug a dominion .. ffs . get real of yes they can learn to be strippers by the thinme the go to kindergarten ,, what r we comming to and of yes shannie approves of this garbage , something fishy here . she dont approve of any good ideas for down town .

    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Is there any possible way to impeach this council?

    The mistakes and waste associated with this bunch of clowns is getting worse as their term in office lengthens.

    Please Shannie, consider this your last term as a city councillor, we cannot afford you or your lofty plans for the city.

    People who go to George street do so for one thing, adult entertainment. Having little kiddies and their helicopter parents crawling around down their is inappropriate. There are many parks in and around the city where parents can take their obnoxious kids, leave the bar district for the grownup's.

  • W
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I'm all for the notion, but considering the city, I think the priorities are WAY out of line. We have a serious lack of recreation facilities, potholes out thru the ying yang, parts of the city are without water & sewer, lots of the cities do not have sidewalks, some right in front of schools, so throwing millions at a drinking hole is irresponsible. Look at the Waster Treatment plant, it went overbudget by 50% or so. So that shy of 19 million is more realistically 30 million. We need more essential infrastructure other than an area where bars can charge 5 bucks a beer and pay minimium wage to most employees. Considering how O'Keefe is all about tourism, and fiscal responsibility (sarcasm for sure), we'll probably see the facelift regardless of any serious analysis.