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Waterfront construction in Saint John. Image: Alex Graham

Waterfront progress moving forward in the Port City

By Scott Pettigrew Jul 12, 2023 | 7:00 AM

The Saint John waterfront work at Market Slip is “on track,” according to city officials.

The ambitious project is slated for completion by the end of 2023 but the progress on various elements is already evident.

“Now that all the underground infrastructure has been completed, they’re really working above the surface and we’ll see a lot more progress,” says Ian Fogan, commissioner of utilities and infrastructure for the City of Saint John. “You’ll probably see progress every day.”

In its latest update, the city notes progress on three essential components of the project. First, the tidal steps, which are a tricky component because work can only be done on them between the tides, although the area has been prepared with a breakwater and pump system to manage the water. According to the city, base materials have been put in place to create a stable foundation for the remainder of the work which includes granite slabs arranged as steps and platforms to the water.

The stage section of the waterfront has been underway since May with the full structural formation in place and roofing on the structure beginning.

The waterfront project is one that keeps more than the summertime tourism season in mind. Preparations are also underway for a skating rink for the winter, with the ice cooling infrastructure installed in the eventual concrete slab that the rink will rest on.

This builds on the work to the Market Slip that has already been completed, including the wooden islands around the skating rink area that will offer year-round seating, with one housing a sound booth to support performances. There are also temporary restaurant patios that opened early at the request of surrounding businesses to help offset the impact of the ongoing construction.

The Market Slip development which the city is responsible for will include, in addition to the skating oval, the tidal steps and the stage, glassed-in patios, pavers, groundworks, and a water feature.

Fogan says he doesn’t know the specific scheduling plans for the Fundy Quay development but that the city has been working closely with developers to ensure all the infrastructure work is coordinated.

“We’re working with them on how the site is serviced,” he says noting the collaboration and preparation for storm sewers for the buildings planned at the site. “We’re working on the infrastructure and working to also finalize the turnover to the site….It’s the city’s responsibility to remediate the site, raise the seawall, and get the preparation done for the turnover to the developer. We’re just in the final stages of finishing up that process.”

He says those final stages involve identifying quantities of granular deposits and allowing opportunities for testing soil densities and other pre-construction tasks. He anticipates the turnover will be happening by the end of July.

With the major infrastructure interruptions having already taken place such as water, sewer, and electrical, Fogan says the only other big disruption to businesses in the immediate area will be finishing the glassed-in patios.

“The foundations [for the patios] have all been laid, but the actual structures have to be built and the glass installed. And it’s retractable glass too,” he explains.

The temporary patio structures were originally scheduled to go up for the Canada Day long weekend.

“What [business owners] expressed to us was that they’d rather have them open a little bit earlier in the season. So we spoke with the contractor, made some arrangements and managed to shift around to get those patios open near the first of June,” he says. “We may have to close it down a little bit earlier in September before we reach October, in order to get the work done.”

Getting all the work completed by the end of December is part of the funding agreement with other levels of government, Fogan says. He says that the city is aware and mindful of the tremendous impact these businesses have had to endure with this development coupled with the Covid restrictions.

“We talked with the restaurants and the businesses…about this. That we had this window of opportunity with funding from other levels of government to really develop the space. We’re keenly aware… that they’ve been through two years of restrictions, and then two years of construction. Couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” he says.

“But we had a window of opportunity to create a generational change for that area. We all saw the opportunity of changing that seasonal space to a twelve-month year-round space, with heated glass patios…How many people would that attract in January, February or December, down to that area? Whereas before, you just wouldn’t get the people [in the off-season].”

“I think [business owners] have the long-term outlook. We have the long-term outlook. But there’s no question that it’s a struggle.”

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


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