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John Wishart is the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton. Image: Denis Duquette

Moncton business groups praise upcoming infrastructure upgrades

By Sam Macdonald Feb 28, 2023 | 8:12 AM

Local business leaders are optimistic about a major infrastructure upgrade in Downtown Moncton that will include a new street.

Patrick Richard, the executive director of Downtown Moncton Centre Ville Inc., said the upgrade is a landscape-changing move that will lay the groundwork for major developments and encourage much-needed downtown densification.

“It’s absolutely positive; it’s great news, a net-gain downtown – and we’re excited to see what happens,” he said.

“The more people downtown, the more residential units downtown, the better. More pedestrians, more people living downtown, where people walk into coffee shops and enjoy restaurant and bars.”

The overhaul is subsidized by a $36.3-million combined investment from the federal, provincial, and municipal governments.

The upgrades include an entirely new street, branching westward and connecting Downing and Westmoreland Streets.

They also include a new storm sewer and sanitary sewer on Downing Street and Assomption Boulevard, and the elevation of Downing Street and Assomption Boulevard to stay abreast of expected rising sea levels that will affect water levels in the Petitcodiac River – along with the moving of electrical and communications lines underground, and rerouting of existing infrastructure.

Patrick Richard, Executive Director of Downtown Moncton Centre Ville Inc.
Image: LinkedIn

Richard said the infrastructure work, slated to begin this summer, will mean some growing pains but that Downtown Moncton Centre Ville Inc. will work closely with impacted stakeholders and the city to keep those growing pains to a minimum, identifying any gaps construction may cause.

“We’re going to be making sure it’s clear which businesses remain open, encouraging people to still support our merchants in those affected areas,” Richard said.

“We’re going to be a little bit more creative and find some fun engagement through social media, signage, and stuff like that, to help our merchants.”

Coverage of the coming infrastructure upgrades has suggested it will be a boon to developers building and planning to build apartments South of Main Street, in the notoriously housing-hungry Hub City.

Among the developers bringing housing to downtown Moncton, south of Main, is John Lafford, the mind behind the Three Sisters Along the River.

Lafford is overseeing the construction of a 450-unit, three-tower apartment development at 20 Record Street, a stone’s throw away from where the infrastructure upgrades are slated to take place. He is also setting up a headquarters and staging area for his work downtown, at the former Workers Co-op Auto Centre where he might develop more apartments in the future.

Huddle reached out to Lafford but did not hear back from him before the publication deadline of this story.

John Wishart, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton, said the city is “at the cusp of something really significant” adding overhaul will lead to greater private sector investment.

“Population growth is through the roof, building permits are already strong, so I think this is just taking it to the next level,” he said.

Wishart praised the provincial and federal governments for, “buying into the need to grow the downtown,” noting he’s heard several potential private projects are in the pipeline.

Wishart said the work itself to update the area between Downing, Assomption, and Main will have a minimal impact on business activity in the area, noting the most significant adaptation he’s heard might be necessary, could be a moving of the Moncton Market so that it faces Downing.

“There isn’t much there right now, other than surface parking lots, the law courts and the Rogers call center – although I believe most of Rogers’ employees are working from home right now,” Wishart said.

“Traffic flow might be a little bit impacted if it involves Assomption or Westmorland or Downing – but I think we need to look at: it is as short-term pain for long-term gain, and something that needs to be done for flood mitigation and climate reasons? The payoff, I think, will be huge,” he added.

Wishart told Huddle the overhaul will encourage more housing development, and potentially, a parking garage of some sort, to make up for the loss of existing parking spaces the infrastructure work will entail.

“We are taking away surface parking and building up. The whole swath of land south of Main is largely surface parking, and the land downtown is just too valuable to remain that way,” he said.

“We need to build up this infrastructure investment to allow that to happen. People are all very optimistic that we’ll see multiple large projects announced in the next couple years, to the point where, maybe five to ten years from now, people who’ve been away from Moncton might not recognize the downtown if they return.”

Sam Macdonald is a Reporter for Huddle Today, a content-sharing partner of Acadia Broadcasting.


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