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Developer Plans 25-Unit Apartment Building in South End of Saint John

The former Salvation Army building in the South End of Saint John. Image: Mark Leger/Huddle

SAINT JOHN – The Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) has recommended Saint John Common Council approve a rezoning that would allow for a 25-unit apartment complex on the site of the former Salvation Army men’s shelter in the South End.

If Council supports the PAC recommendation passed at a meeting Tuesday night, Mike Cavanaugh Homes, which is in the process of buying the building, would renovate the current structure that has two interconnected towers – one three-storeys high, the other five storeys.

Peter MacKenzie, an architect and owner of Comeau MacKenzie Architecture, spoke on behalf of the developer at the PAC meeting.

He said the initial plans call for 25 apartments, a mix of 650-700 square-foot one-bedroom units and 1,200 square-foot two-bedroom units.

The buildings would also be renovated to address the current institutional character of the buildings. To allow for more light, the windows would be lengthened. The drop-ceilings would also be removed and concrete walls exposed to give the units a clean, open, modern feel.

“Conceptually, we’ll be looking at contemporary, modern-style interiors, with increased amounts of glass,” said MacKenzie in an interview after his presentation. “It has very nice due-south views. [The complex] is a concrete-floor structure on a steel frame. We’ll be looking at exposing some of the concrete to enhance ceiling heights and get some of that urban-loft feeling.”

There will be outdoor and indoor parking because they can utilize an “adjunct building” in the back of the complex that used to be a workshop.

The towers have flat roofs so could accommodate roof-top patios, but MacKenzie says they’re not committed to doing that at this stage.

“There could be and we have [considered it],” he said. “We’re in the early days for budgeting but the possibility is definitely there, especially the [smaller tower] where the roof is a concrete slab. That makes life easier in terms of saying, ‘Well, there’s your roof deck.’ ”

There are rooms in the basement of the building that would not be suitable for apartments because they don’t have windows, but MacKenzie said they will be developed as common rooms for residents.

“It’s a good thing for potential meeting rooms, hobby rooms, maybe set up a little woodworking shop…That’ll be an added perk to the development. Usually, developers are a little [reluctant] to construct that kind of space, but in this instance, it’s already there, so we’ll be developing that for the promotion of the units.”

Steve Carson, CEO of Develop Saint John, called the proposed apartment building a great fit for the municipal plan and the neighbourhood plan in development. “[The project is] a catalyst for future development in that area,” said Carson, who spoke at the meeting in support of the proposed development.

Gerry Lowe, Councillor for Ward 3 and member of the PAC, said it was a “great project for the South End.” He said the proposed complex was one of many developments taking place in that part of the southern peninsula – from townhouses to condos and potentially a new school. “It could be the start of change for the whole area,” he said.

No one spoke in opposition to the project at the Tuesday meeting.

If council approves the PAC recommendation for rezoning the site, MacKenzie says work would begin right away with apartments potentially ready for occupancy in sixth months.

“It’s a really good building – good bones,” said MacKenzie. “There’s an elevator, sprinkler system and we’re not physically adding to it. A lot of the heavy lifting is done so we’re looking at a six- or seven-month run to heads on pillows.”

There will be a public hearing before council May 22.

The proposed housing project is one of many recent announcements in the south/central peninsula in the last few months.

RELATED: New Developer Buys Two ‘Crown Jewels’ of King Street in Uptown Saint John

Most recently, developer Roo Chang and Siobhán Riley purchased 91 King Street – the old Woolworths building at the top of King Street.

Chang has plans to renovate the ground floor for commercial use and add 10 storeys and 55-60 apartment units.

The Saint John developer, who recently moved here from Vancouver, also purchased the historic Royal Bank building at the corner of King Street and Canterbury Street. She plans to lease the ground floor and mezzanine for commercial use and renovate to the upper three floors for condos.

Cavanaugh, Riley and Chang are part of a recent wave of investors – a group that includes Keith BrideauHolly and Ken Singh, and Percy Wilbur – who believe the city centre is ripe for more residential and commercial development.