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An empty hole remains at 99 King Street in Saint John as of April 22, 2024. Image: Brad Perry

Developer remains committed to 99 King Street

By Brad Perry Apr 23, 2024 | 6:24 AM

The developer behind a planned multi-use building at 99 King Street in Saint John says he remains committed to the project.

Nearly three years after the former Woolworth’s store was demolished, construction on the new building has yet to begin.

A gaping hole remains where the building should be, which has caused frustration among many city residents.

Percy Wilbur acknowledged that frustration and concern during an interview with our newsroom on Monday.

“I know that it’s been a bit of an eyesore. There’s been some challenges in the last few years that were pretty unforeseen and I can understand people being upset, and no one more so than me,” he said.

“I’ve got a tremendous investment there that’s not doing anything for me until I’m completed.”

The initial $40-million design proposed a grocery store on the first floor, two floors of office space, nine residential floors totalling 93 apartment units, and two levels of underground parking.

But Wilbur said rising costs he attributed to COVID and a labour shortage forced them to go back to the drawing board.

The two floors of office space are being replaced with more residential units and a third level of underground parking is being added.

“The design is pretty much locked in now, so we’ve got to go out for pricing and work with our team members to make the pricing a little bit more reasonable,” said Wilbur.

Original renderings of the planned development at 99 King Street in Saint John. Image: Submitted/City of Saint John

In the meantime, the developer said the province needs to play a role in incentivizing residential development, just like the federal and municipal governments have done.

Wilbur said he would like to see the 10 per cent provincial sales tax removed on new residential construction throughout the province.

“We’d have shovels in the ground tomorrow if there were an announcement today,” said Wilbur.

“The province is getting about $8,000 a year in property taxes right now, with the hole in the ground. If we proceed with this project, they’ll get half a million dollars a year.”

Meanwhile, the ongoing delays were a topic of discussion during a meeting of Saint John council’s growth committee on Monday.

City staff said the community has expressed concerns about the safety and the unsightly nature of the fencing, jersey barriers, and graffiti at the site.

They said “significant improvements” are anticipated in the coming weeks to improve the look of the site.

Wilbur said starting this week, they will work to repair the fence and install filter fabric so the hole is not visible.

As for filling in the hole until construction begins, the developer noted that is not a feasible solution.

“It would cost in excess of half a million dollars to fill that hole in only to dig it all out when we’re ready to do something,” he said.