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The New Brunswick Museum building on Douglas Avenue in Saint John. Image: Submitted

Revitalized N.B. Museum could cost $150M: officials

By Brad Perry Jul 24, 2023 | 6:27 AM

Revitalizing the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John will likely cost somewhere in the range of $150 million.

The figure comes as officials announced the new museum will be in its original home on Douglas Avenue.

“That’s an ambitious goal for these days and it’s quite possible that that number can come down,” Dr. Kathryn Hamer, chair of the museum’s board, said about the estimated price tag.

Officials have spent the past several months trying to determine where the revitalized museum would go in Saint John.

The museum’s Douglas Avenue location first opened its doors in the 1930s, but officials realized by the early 1990s that they needed more space.

In April 1996, the museum officially opened its exhibition centre in Market Square uptown. The Douglas Avenue building continued to house its collections centre and archives.

After two years of closures — first due to COVID-19, then due to the required building repairs as a result of leaks — officials permanently closed the exhibition centre last fall.

The Douglas Avenue facility has also been facing issues of its own related to leaks, officials have said.

In March, the city’s Planning Advisory Committee signed off on a temporary use approval allowing for the museum to use a warehouse-style facility at 228 Lancaster Avenue as an interim space for its collections facility.

Hamer said while the Douglas Avenue building is “not in good condition” right now, structural engineers are confident it can be retrofitted.

“If you’d asked me about the Douglas Avenue site five years ago, I would have said it’s a crumbling wreck, but it is salvageable and I think it will make a very fine start to the new facility,” she said.

Officials said they will incorporate a new design with the nearly century-old facility, which will be upgraded and preserved. In addition, the plan will avoid any impact on the nearby Riverview Memorial Park.

A number of nearby homes will be torn down to make way for the expanded museum, which will also include off-street parking.

Hamer said some of the building’s more recent add-ons will be removed while the original structure will be expanded — all while maintaining the iconic facade.

“There’s a lot of fondness for that old building and a lot of people who can remember being taken to it as school kids or with grandparents on a rainy Sunday afternoon,” she said.

“When we start with something people like and we can build something onto it that people will like too, it’s going to be a winning combination overall.”

Officials had previously planned to build a new museum along the Saint John waterfront at a cost of $100 million.

But in 2018, the Progressive Conservatives under Premier Blaine Higgs government pulled a $50-million funding commitment that had been made by the previous Liberal government a year earlier, effectively cancelling the project.

The next phase will involve detailed design, planning and costing for the project. A series of soon-to-be-announced public engagement sessions are also being planned around the province.

Hamer said they still hope to have the revitalized museum open to the public by early 2026 but added that delays are “almost inevitable” in the construction process.

“You run into something unexpected or a supplier can’t supply exactly on time, but the target date would be the first quarter of 2026.”

The New Brunswick Museum is pleased to announce that it is moving forward with its facilities renewal project at its…

Posted by New Brunswick Museum – Musée du Nouveau-Brunswick on Friday, July 21, 2023


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