Saint John– The new mixed-income apartment complex to be built on the corner of Union Street and Wellington Row in uptown Saint John will be modern but still echo the area’s history, says the architecture firm behind the project.
Back in January, Saint John Non Profit Housing announced that Saint John-based architecture firm Acre Architects would be designing the new building, which would replace the “Jellybean” houses that previously occupied the corner, but were torn down last year.
The result, says Acre Architects partner Stephen Kopp, is a thoughtfully designed building dubbed The Wellington.
“Union Street has a lot of buildings that sort of turn their back to the street and with Wellington Row being a really more pedestrian-friendly street, we wanted to be able to open up that corner,” says Kopp.
Looking at artist renderings of the design, the planned complex looks sleek and modern, but its clear that the legacy of the buildings that were there before it isn’t forgotten.
“What we did is almost divide the building in three…It doesn’t feel like one big building, it feels like three buildings. In a way, it echoes a little bit of the jellybean massing. They are not houses, they are still buildings, but they each have an individual character now,” says Kopp.
Take a look at artist renderings of The Wellington below:
“We started each massing back different ways that open up a bit of a plaza on the corner. So people can feel more comfortable and there can be landscaping.”
The six-storey building will have 24 market-rate units and 20 affordable units. The ground floor will also have two commercial spaces, one ideal for a food-service business.
Kopp says they also wanted the building’s design to highlight the historical properties nearby, such as the Loyalist House, which he says often looks lost among the giant office towers surrounding it.
“What we did is actually shift the building back so that you get this view towards [the Loyalist House] and it almost celebrates the history of the area,” says Kopp. “We’re really excited about that as a plan.”
The Wellington will also incorporate pops of colour, another nod to the buildings that were once in its place.
“That was something we wanted to carry through is having some colour. On Union Street up against the Loyalist House facade, we kept it more natural tones like stone texture. As we get farther around towards up Wellington Row, colour starts to blend in with the project almost in a whimsical way as it wraps around the building,” says Kopp.
“On the Wellington Row side, it starts to become red and then as it transfers around the back, it then becomes white, a little bit of a reference to the Three Sisters Lamp.”
Most affordable housing units are very uniform in design with little character. This was something Acre wanted to avoid with this project.
“We wanted it to not feel institutional. So we kept the windows feeling a bit more natural and organic in terms of their placement, so they’re not just stacked straight up … The openings feel a bit more custom or unique to each dwelling,” says Kopp.
The interior of the units are still in the basic planning stage, but Kopp says both the market-rate and affordable units will be “scattered” throughout the complex. Some units will also have balconies.
“We don’t want to say too much, because that’s the phase we’re starting, but we’re going to try to have some surprises in there and we have some interesting ideas along the way,” he says. “Saint John Non Profit Housing wants this to be the most exciting place to live in Saint John, so that will be our task in this next phase.”
This project is different from any other affordable housing complex in the city. Kopp says they hope The Wellington will help change the way people approach building such complexes in the future.
“I think we’re going to try to rethink the way people think about interiors in projects. Durability is going to be a big key factor in this … We want to rethink the materials that are used and how we do that,” he says.
“I know that in bigger city centres, people are a bit more used to what people would call ‘industrial’ but I think what we want to do is blend something that feels like home but it still has a durable character that Saint John is inherently used to.”
The actual construction of the Wellington is expected to begin sometime next year.
“I think we’re always trying to be inspired by history, but create something new,” says Kopp. “We always say we are what we create, but we can craft our future. So we’re always trying to figure out ways to fit into a historical context but in a new way. That’s what we feel really excited about.”