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Hyperlocal Q&A with Mark Leger

Mark Leger is one of 12 bloggers who'll be telling his neighbourhood's stories on Hyperlocal - Canada Writes' interactive story map, launching April 3rd. Mark lives in the South End of St. John, NB. 

Tell us about yourself. 
I'm a stay-at-home dad and freelance print and radio journalist in the South End of Saint John, N.B. I'm also an active volunteer with the local community garden and residents' association, and a youth shelter being constructed in the neighbourhood. Saint John has a population of about 70,000. My neighbourhood of 5,000 residents is in the city centre. I've lived in various places around here since 1996. 
Tell us about your neighbourhood.
The South End is a mixed-income, densely populated neighbourhood. Most people live within a short walk of services and amenities, including a public park, city market, museum and aquatic recreation centre. Its 19th-century brick and wood-framed houses and apartment buildings characterize this part of town. It's the hub of the Saint John region. 

I love walking my kids through the neighbourhood during the day because I bump into people I know from around the region who work in the city centre. But I don't like that most of these people leave the neighbourhood for their homes in the suburbs at the end of the work day. 

What are some of your favourite neighbourhood destinations? 
I like the places where people gather for a chat (city market, and two area coffee shops—a Starbucks and local cafe Java Moose); where they play (the neighbourhood park and the local pool); and where they enjoy local arts and culture (museum and area galleries). I live in a vibrant, mixed-use neighbourhood where these things are all within walking distance.

How is your neighbourhood changing? 
The South End is an old neighbourhood by Canadian standards. In the last 50 years, it has lost residents to the suburbs and seen its many historic churches, apartments and homes fall into disrepair. Many people are regaining a taste for urban living, though. And the neighbourhood is experiencing some housing renewal in the form of newly-built condos and mixed-income apartment buildings. Many old buildings are also being restored for residential and commercial use. This includes some old churches, which are being put to new uses in the housing, cultural and social sectors.

Mark Leger is a stay-home-dad and freelance journalist in Saint John, N.B. He’s also an active volunteer. He helps organize the local community garden, and serves on the board of the neighbourhood residents’ association, and is board member with an organization building a shelter for homeless youth in the neighbourhood. Mark, two-year-old Ella, and Jack, 4, can often be seen forcing people off the sidewalks of the city’s South End with their SUV-style double-stroller. He blogs about life with his kids at markleger.ca and community issues on peoplecity.ca.

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