Frustration Mounts As New Irving Oil HQ Put On Hold

Ian Whitcomb, president of Irving Oil, at the building's announcement in February.

SAINT JOHN–There’s a sense of frustration among many people in Saint John as plans to build a major new corporate office in the city’s uptown core have been put on hold after Jim Bezanson, a local architect and heritage conservationist, filed an appeal with the province’s Assessment and Planning Appeal Board.

Earlier this year Irving Oil announced plans to build  an 11 storey tall new home office on a parking lot next to the Imperial Theatre. The building would house 1,000 Irving Oil employees currently scattered around Saint John in five different offices.

The project was approved by the Saint John Heritage Development Board. But Bezanson says the building is too high and set too far back from the sidewalk to meet the city’s heritage conservation rules.

“We have a lot of respect for the hard work of the Heritage Review Board and City staff, and we were disappointed to learn about this appeal as it creates a lot of uncertainty around our new home office project in uptown Saint John,” said Irving Oil spokesman Andy Carson in a statement. “We had planned to start construction activities on April 4, however given this recent appeal these plans are now indefinitely on hold.”

Irving Oil’s video promoting its planned new home office.

“Given the significance of the project to Saint John, and the incredible amount of support we have received to date we are very disappointed with this recent appeal.  From its inception, this new building has being designed to complement and enhance the heritage character of uptown Saint John.  We remain encouraged by the support from the community and our neighbours and will continue to work hard to make this project a reality for our company and our city,” said Carson.

Saint John realtor Jason Stephen took to Facebook to express his frustration with the threat to the project. “This has been passed through many hands and process to protect the area and help develop what is now parking lots. It’s time that people stand up for responsible development to attract new and existing business NOW!!!! Our beautiful city depends on positive future growth.”

No date has been set to hear the appeal, and until that process is complete no work can begin on the building.