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An undated image of the Saint John City Market. Image: City of Saint John

Saint John seeks more input on City Market overhaul

By Scott Pettigrew Jun 7, 2023 | 2:49 PM

Establishing regular hours of operation, redesigning the outdoor plaza at Germain Street, and reducing the number of aisles in the market from three to two are the major recommendations coming out of the Saint John City Market Strategic Plan 2023-2033, which was presented to the city’s growth committee on Tuesday.

“Change can be hard for some,” says the plan’s co-author, Kieron Hunt of FBM Architecture. Hunt acknowledged the significant impact the proposed changes could have on vendors and other users of the market. “But we realized that this a great opportunity to showcase what many people not just in Atlantic Canada, but in Canada, will see as the premier public market in Canada.”

The proposals, compiled over a 14-month consultation period from January 2022 to March 2023, were identified as among the top priorities of the 65 actions the city hopes to take to make the market better in the decade ahead.

Saint John City Market is Canada’s oldest continuously operating market since it was built in 1876. The plan sets its sights on implementing at least some of the goals in time for the 150th anniversary of the market in 2026.

Written by Halifax’s FBM architecture interior design and planning, and Quay North Urban Development of Vancouver, the plan now moves to a second period of public consideration, with a Shape Your City survey soon to be available on the city’s public consultation portal.

The plan, with the additional feedback, will be presented to the city market steering committee on June 28th, and finally come before full council for adoption in July.

The three priority actions identified in the strategic plan are:

·       Implement a two‐aisle layout, along with a renewed Bench/Kiosk program;

·       Redesign the plaza at Germain Street as an extension of the Market; and

·       Consistent hours of operation, energy efficiency upgrades, and improvements to bathrooms.

The shift from a three-aisle to a two-aisle layout will provide for more space in the market but will modify and potentially reduce the amount of stall space, as one of the two central rows of stalls is removed to create wider walking aisles.

The plan identified this move “as fundamental to unlocking the value and vitality of the Market,” as the amount of walk-by traffic would increase significantly for each vendor, and wider aisles would allow more easily for walkers, strollers, and wheelchairs.

In addition, the plan suggests keeping the offerings at the market fresh by encouraging pop-ups, using smaller stall sizes, and encouraging vendor movement to improve flow through the market.

“I’m excited about it,” says Green Grocer owner Darren Lavigne of the proposals. “I think it’s really good for the market to have a focus and a plan.”

Despite being potentially impacted location-wise by the modifications the strategic plan is proposing, Lavigne says the consultation with the report authors has been strong and that he’s confident the city “wouldn’t put us in a position where we wouldn’t be able to succeed.”

Lavigne says he’s in favour of the proposals he’s heard for the solarium area and the increased seating in the market.

“Any kind of investment, especially a strategic investment, would be good,” he says.

The plan identifies the need for the market to move away from its heavy reliance on office workers and tourists, and to instead become more important to locals, especially those living uptown. More consistent and longer hours are projected to help make the market a destination for people who live in the area to frequent after work.

The plan found 70 per cent of consumer spending on weekdays took place after 6 p.m., an argument for keeping the market open later.

The plan also recommends the creation of a “Market Outreach and Experience Manager” role to manage the $60,000 marketing budget, with a focus on social media, Facebook and Instagram in particular. The development of a distinct City Market brand, separate from that of the city, was also recommended.

The cost to operate the market building is $1.1 million annually, including the four-storey office tower, but it only generates $500,000 in revenue through stall rental. The city hopes to find a path to profitability or revenue neutrality through the strategic plan.

“There’s also the opportunity to use the City Market as a space for weddings or corporate events. One of the concepts that we’ve had is to have … an elevated mezzanine that could be used for additional seating for private events for other revenue,” Hunt says.

Mayor Donna Reardon says changes to the market are necessary to keep up with the times, and with Saint John’s changing demographic situation.

“We’re experiencing a real influx of population on the peninsula, and a lot of that population is within walking distance [of the market] so this is another opportunity for us to engage with the transformation,” Reardon says.

“It’s going to be an impressive evolution of the market.”

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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