Prince William Street could become pedestrian-only walkway

Saint John's Prince William Street could become a pedestrian-only walkway this year as part of a pilot project to lure more people to the uptown area.

Saint John council will consider proposal to temporarily close street to vehicles as pilot project

Prince William Street in uptown Saint John could soon become a pedestrian-only walkway as part of a pilot project to lure more business to the city's core. (Courtesy of Cruise Saint John)

Saint John council will hear recommendations on Monday about potentially taking cars off an uptown street, turning it into a pedestrian walkway in a bid to increase business in the area.

Uptown Saint John, the business association tasked with researching the idea last fall, will suggest temporarily closing Prince William Street as a pilot project, said spokesperson Anne McShane.

"Partly because of its track record," she said, referring to the street having hosted Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, during their visit in 2012.

"It builds on the restaurant district that we already have," said McShane, owner of the Feel Good Store on Germain Street.

"Does not hurt that it's flat when you're setting up tables and chairs. And it's a beautiful streetscape  it's already a beautiful natural backdrop for it."

McShane says council had hoped to see the pilot begin as early as this spring. There's still a need for consultations, but if council approves the plan, it could be implemented this year, she said.

Out-of-towner Beth Clark likes the idea of turning the street over to pedestrians, which has been done is other cities, such as Quebec.

"You know, you have the freedom and the feeling of safety of walking along the streets.”

Real estate developer Keith Brideau, of Historica Developments, also supports the idea, provided it doesn't steal business from other areas.

“We do have the boardwalk, which is great pedestrian-friendly area, so as long as we're not competing with what's already working really well and we're offering something that’s a little bit different, then I think it will be successful," he said.

Mayor Mel Norton, who proposed creating a no-traffic zone last summer in the hope of luring more people to the city's core, has said if the pilot proves successful, he would like to see some more permanent pedestrian-only streets in the uptown.

Prince William Street, known for its historic public buildings, was the first designated heritage street in the country, Coun. Donna Reardon has said.

It is slated for reconstruction this summer, which will include overhead wires being placed underground, new water and sewer lines, pavement, sidewalks and granite curbing.

An underground tunnel that links the old post office building at Princess Street with the Revenue Canada building and customs office a block away, at the intersection of Prince William Street and Duke Street, is also scheduled to be removed.

The 1.8-metre tall concrete tunnel has been in place for at least half a century.