SAINT JOHN – There’s been a lot of talk about how Saint John’s city centre is growing, and an organization representing businesses in the area now has numbers to prove it.
The report aims to show a detailed analysis of the BIA and includes some new statistics that show how the Uptown has been changing over the several years.
The Business Improvement Area is defined as Station Street, to King Square North down to the end of Waterstreet. It’s important to note that this area excludes a good chunk of the South Central Peninsula, which is still considered to be “uptown.” However, the BIA is where the majority of the businesses in the central core are located.
Uptown Saint John’s executive director Nancy Tissington says the inaugural report has been years in the making. Its purpose is to give concrete data about the demographics in the BIA.
“Anecdotally, you can say, ‘we see businesses popping up and we see trends and growth and people moving into our cities,’ [but] we haven’t really captured the true data so we can actually benchmark it,” says Tissington.
The report includes stats covering immigration, overall growth, crime, cultural diversity, quality of life, a breakdown of businesses and employment, and more.
Perhaps one of the most notable statistics is population growth. From 2011 to 2016, the BIA area saw a 15 per cent population growth, while the city of Saint John overall saw a 2.2 decrease in population over the same period.
“We’re always looking at densification in our uptown and we’re trying to figure out who is coming. We’re seeing a huge lift in our youngsters from 19- to 35-years old,” says Tissington.
“That lends itself to what do we need for amenities in our uptown? What do we do we need for housing, what types of housing? What are the things people like to do when they move into a core?”
Residents 20 to 34 make up 30 per cent of the population living in the BIA. Coming not far ahead of them at 39 per cent is the 34 to 64 demographic. Tissington also sees that number increasing in the coming years.
“Then there is the flip side to people who are retiring, the empty nesters, you’re starting to hear a lot more of those people coming in,” says she says. “That’s the number we’ll be watching for a change in the couple years when the census comes out again. The trends will be that we’re going to see that number push up again.”
Though it’s only Uptown Saint John’s first report like this, the organization plans to continuously update it going forward. Tissington says having this data easily accessible in one place will help those looking to develop or set up shop in the city.
“That lends a lot to when business comes in, they know their audience in their impact area. What is it that we need that you think will work? What do they want?” she says.
“We felt this would be a good tool to arm people with for making a better decision.”
Here are some other highlights from the report:
- The median income of “economic families” is $91,672, higher than the Greater Saint John area as a whole ($81,540) and more than double that of the Southern Peninsula ($44,762).
- Uptown Saint John has the highest concentration of businesses per square kilometre. It has more than 650 of the 5,308 businesses operating in the Greater Saint John area.
- 79 per cent of the commercial office space is occupied. The residential vacancy rate is 4.9 per cent.