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The Brown House located at the corner of King Street East and Carmarthen Street in Saint John. Image: Brad Perry

Protest Over Plans To Demolish ‘Brown House’

By Brad Perry Aug 16, 2022 | 6:15 AM

Saint John council is being asked to “stay the course” when it comes to an uptown heritage building.

J.D. Irving, Ltd. has asked city council to remove three properties at 111-119 King Street East from the local heritage conservation area.

Two of the properties are vacant while the third is home to the Paikowsky Residence, also known as the Brown House.

The move would pave the way for the company to demolish the dilapidated 81-year-old building at the corner of King Street East and Carmarthen Street and build a playground in its place.

Resident Sara Stashick is planning a protest for Tuesday night to raise awareness and community engagement around the planned demolition.

Stashick said she was shocked to hear comments made by representatives from JDI during a public hearing in July.

“I watched JDI’s representatives unabashedly tell Common Council that they didn’t want to have to follow the heritage bylaw process for that property because they wanted to maintain control of it,” Stashick said in a phone interview on Friday.

“I don’t feel that a desire for control is a legitimate reason to want special treatment.”

Under the city’s heritage bylaw, there is no need for a property to be removed from a heritage conservation area in order for a building to be demolished.

However, an applicant must first list the building for sale “at a reasonable price” for at least one year and accept “reasonable offers” within 10 per cent before the Heritage Development Board will issue a demolition permit.

Chris MacDonald, vice president of government relations for JDI, told council on July 11 that they have no plans to sell the property given its close proximity to the company’s head office.

“It’s important, from our perspective, to maintain that property because then we have control over that property. Once it’s sold, you never know what’s going to happen with it,” said MacDonald.

Stashick said she would like JDI to “play by the same rules everyone else and not ask for special treatment” on this issue.

They have a responsibility to the community in preserving the heritage asset, she said.

“If they’re not willing to do it, then I would ask that they follow the rules laid out in the heritage bylaw and put it up for sale so that someone else has the opportunity to put their hand up and say ‘I’d like to take a stab at protecting that heritage asset,'” said Stashick.

However, JDI does not appear interested in fixing up the property, which has been vacant since 2016 due to poor living conditions and safety concerns.

MacDonald said if the building does not come down now, it will likely sit there for several more years until it is torn down as part of the city’s Vacant and Dangerous Buildings program.

“It is likely the building will continue to deteriorate,” he said. “It’s clearly beyond feasible repair, so it is going to come down one way or the other.”

Stashick would also like to see the councillors who voted in favour of the first and second readings of JDI’s application — Gerry Lowe, Gary Sullivan, Barry Ogden, Greg Stewart, and Deputy Mayor John Mackenzie — change their mind at third reading.

While some councillors expressed feeling “handcuffed” by the situation, Stashick said the city had already begun exercising its authority by enacting the Vacant and Dangerous Buildings program.

“Which, if you follow that process, will inevitably result in JDI being compelled to either fix the property or put it up for sale because that’s what’s required under the heritage designation,” she said.

During a special meeting in June, the Heritage Development Board sided with a staff recommendation not to remove the properties from the heritage conservation area.

Staff, however, recommended that Common Council approve the application, noting that while the board was looking at it through a heritage lens, council is considering a “more fulsome evaluation of all public benefits.”

Tuesday night’s protest on the sidewalk near the Brown House will begin at 9 p.m. The event will include a Q&A and a “unique” informational display.


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