Local Company Plans Commercial, Residential Development On Coast Guard Site

Image: Develop Saint John.

SAINT JOHN – Fundy Quay, also known as the “old coast guard site” in uptown Saint John now has a developer.

David Elias, president of Fundy Quay Inc., a subsidiary of Elias Management Group, plans to develop the site into a multi-use development featuring a mix of commercial and residential spaces. Saint John Common Council passed a motion Tuesday night that would allow Fundy Quay Inc. to lease the land.

“Our vision for the site is to be able to allow it achieve its full potential,” said Elias, to reporters after the motion was passed. “We have a great waterfront. We got some great architecture and we hope to see this as the beginning point, or a catalyst to allow our city to achieve its full potential.”

The legal agreement approved by the council includes a two-year development option while site development work is completed and a 25-year lease-to-own agreement to incentivize development.

Since the project is in the very early stages, Elias said it’s too early to say what the commercial and residential makeup of the development will be at this time. But some of the possible options that will be explored are things like a hotel, specialty shops and boutiques, arts and cultural spaces, cafes, and public and green spaces. On the residential side, both rental units and condominiums will be considered.

“The most important thing is creating a project that’s viable,” he said. “Viability depends upon multiple factors and as we’re going through the process over the next 12 to 24 months, we’ll be looking at all these factors individually and reevaluating as we go.”

David Elias (centre) with his sons, Chris (left) and Alex (right). Image: Danielle McCreadie/CHSJ News

Construction can begin after the city repairs the property’s the seawall, which it has funding secured for. It will also have to take care of contaminated soils and raise the land 1.5 meters, which are both waiting on funds from the city’s bi-lateral infrastructure funding agreement. This work is expected to be completed by 2022.

The development will be done in phases, but when completed, it’s expected to cost around $200-million.

“Being sensitive to viability and a phased approach, we would probably anticipate the first phase to be around $50-million and the full potential of the site is probably up around $200-million,” said Elias.

Adjacent to Fundy Quay is a site owned by the province. The land was going to be the future home of the New Brunswick Museum before the idea was scrapped after the change in government in the last provincial election. Elias says the plan is to eventually develop that site too.

“The intention is to develop both sites,” said Elias.

“[The province is] aware of what we’re trying to achieve here and the first step was to get through tonight and then to move from there.”

Elias is not new to development in Saint John. He’s partnered with Historica CEO Keith Brideau on purchasing and renovating the City Hall building and is also behind the Fundy Harbour Estates and Vimy Estates.

“[He has] skin in the game,” said Develop Saint John CEO Steven Carson, during the council meeting. “[He is] a local developer that has other assets and investments in our community and [is] really passionate about bringing this site to life to the benefit of not just the region, but the province.”

“A really important component of the business model is that this will be led by private sector investment. It won’t be reliant on provincial government leases, or other government leases, which obviously in this environment would be very challenging. We believe it is a very realistic approach.”

The development of the waterfront site has had a few false starts over the years, but Elias says he is cautiously optimistic about the future.

“Our intention is to make this successful, but as I said, we’re cautious also. This is the early phase and this is at the beginning and right now there’s a lot of positive factors that are in our favour,” he said. “However, there is a lot of work to be done and there’s a lot of things to be managed in order for us to get to the final stage, but we’re optimistic and it’s more probable than not.

With files from Danielle McCreadie, a reporter with CHSJ/Country 94, a Huddle content partner.