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The former 14 1/2 Café and Bar at Reversing Falls in Saint John. Image: Brad Perry

City to sell Reversing Falls property slated for demolition

By Brad Perry Apr 19, 2023 | 3:31 PM

A fixture overlooking Reversing Falls on Saint John’s west side has been saved from the wrecking ball.

On Monday, council voted to sell the city-owned property at 450 Fallsview Drive to Westside Holdings Inc.

The move comes several months after the same council voted to demolish the building, which is in need of significant work.

“It’s a better deal for citizens, for sure,” Mayor Donna Reardon said of the sale during an interview on Tuesday.

In May 2022, council voted to terminate the lease with Connections Bistro Inc., which had operated the café since 2018. No details were given as to why the lease was terminated.

The following month, council sought expressions of business interest (EOI) for the building and surrounding land.

But after no one expressed interest in leasing the building, council voted in Oct. 2022 to demolish it once and for all.

That demolition was supposed to be done by the end of March, but that was put on hold when Westside Holdings Inc. approached the city to see if it would be interested in selling the property.

“They asked if the building was still be considered for anything other than demolition. Staff said ‘absolutely, what’s your plan,'” she said.

RELATED: Former Reversing Falls café will be demolished

Reardon said the buyer plans to revitalize the building and bring a new business to the site — something she is looking forward to seeing in the busy tourist area.

The Reversing Falls area has been advertised for generations, so when people come to Saint John, it’s one of the things they will say they’ve heard about it. It’ll be nice to have that built up a little bit more,” she said.

But the buyer will need to make some considerable investments, according to a building condition assessment from 2021.

It said the facility needed $193,000 in capital investments over the next year and $221,000 in investments over the next five years.

The assessment listed the building as being in “generally fair condition” but said it requires “substantial work” in the short term due to water entry and damage to the east elevation, as well as the age and condition of the patio areas.

“The current infrastructure deficit is higher than would typically be anticipated for a facility such as this and the ongoing recapitalization requirements are considered to be extraordinary,” said the assessment.

“The building presents as a generally well operated and maintained facility, though with component deficiencies that will require repair and replacement for the continued operation of the building.”

As for what sort of business will be coming to the site, Reardon said she did not have any information about that.

But one councillor offered a hint of what the buyer might be planning during Monday night’s council meeting.

“I think it’s fabulous news that west Saint John is getting another restaurant,” said Coun. Barry Ogden.

While most councillors supported the sale, Paula Radwan and Gerry Lowe voted against the motion.

Radwan said while she is confident in the “incredible entrepreneurs,” she does not agree with the process on the file.

“As well, I just don’t agree with the sale of prime waterfront real estate property for the citizens of this city,” said Radwan.

Reardon said while the property does overlook Reversing Falls, the city will still own the stairs and all the land going down to the water.


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