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Sluggish St. John's economy sets pace of Pleasantville development

Bennett House is an apartment building in Pleasantville with amenities including a 16-seat theatre, meeting/entertainment space, a full gym, and underground parking.
Bennett House is an apartment building in Pleasantville with amenities including a 16-seat theatre, meeting/entertainment space, a full gym, and underground parking.

By Victoria Plowman The Telegram It’s wait and see for Rodger Martin, vice-president of real estate for Canada Lands Company, the federal Crown corporation that redevelops former government properties.

These semi-detached townhouses in Pleasantville were built in the past few years.

“It’s hard to predict how quickly the market will pick up again,” Martin said in a phone interview with The Telegram on Tuesday.

“I know that there’s a lot of local economic issues that will affect the timeframe and such. We’re just kind of hoping that the market slowly improves.”

Martin is referring to Pleasantville in the east end of St. John’s, which was home to U.S. Air Force Base Fort Pepperrell from 1941 until 1961. The site was then transferred to the Canadian government to be used by the Department of National Defence.

In 2006, Canada Lands Company acquired the property, planning to turn it into a residential neighbourhood. St. John’s city council approved the proposal in 2009, and the redevelopment began in 2010.

Now, the section that’s rebuilt is colourful and vibrant, with the former military buildings demolished and residential housing popping up in their place.

Crews have been working here to ready the land for redevelopment.

Coun. Danny Breen says the demolition was highly anticipated, as many of the empty buildings had been vandalized in recent years.
“I think that the big thing for the last year was to really just tear down those old buildings,” Breen said. “Now they’re getting ready to do the infrastructure work that’s required. The apartment buildings and such already built have been very successful as far as I’ve seen. “There’s definitely some interest in the area — just not as much as hoped for, because of the market and the economy and such.”

The demolition of the former military buildings in Pleasantville is complete.

According to Martin, soil remediation is underway in the western half of the community. He says that they hope to have it finished by the end of the season.

Martin acknowledged the decrepit buildings were an eyesore and a concern for residents in the area. He says people purchasing from builders have been appreciative that the old structures are finally a thing of the past.

“It’s an improvement to the area for sure. You know, they were in some rough shape and just weren’t very pleasant to look at,” Martin said.

“They were also vacant and not being used anymore, and they did represent a concern for trespassers and safety, so from that point of view we were very interested in being able to complete the demolition and eliminate that anxiety.”

Canada Lands’ objective has been clear from the beginning of the project, Martin said. They want to create a pedestrian-oriented community with a variety of housing types, including single-family homes, duplexes, townhouses, multi-storey buildings and an assisted living complex.

“We’re simply trying to implement the approved plan, just as we always have. That’s always been the objective,” Martin said.

“We’re watching the market and watching how it responds, and we will react to it and make decisions about Pleasantville as needed.”

 

victoria.plowman@thetelegram.com

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