Prince William Street in Saint John

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

Saint John Mayor Mel Norton wants to fast-track a proposal to create a temporary, pedestrian-only street for festivals and events in the uptown business district.

City staff will look into the proposal for a pilot project that could see a street closed once or twice this summer for outdoor festivities.

Prince William Street has the biggest potential to become a pedestrian mall on occasion for special events, said Anne McShane, a spokesperson for Uptown Saint John.

The report, submitted by the business association, did not go so far as to recommend it happen this summer.

But Norton says there is nothing keeping such an event from taking place sooner rather than later.

"To take a street that might not be well-used, for example on a Saturday evening or Sunday evening, or a Sunday afternoon and do something special there in terms of event programming [could] really provide economic stimulus," said Norton.

"We really don't have any time to waste."

Norton said he would like to see a city street closed at least one, or possibly two days this year for an event.

"We need to try new things and if the new thing doesn't work as well as we'd like, we adjust the course a little bit, we adjust it and move on," he said.

Permanent pedestrian mall is possible

McShane recommended a cautious approach to council, involving consultation with business. No streets would be closed on a constant basis, she said.

Coun. Donna Reardon, however, is open to the idea of a permanent, pedestrian-only street.

"King Square North would be perfect," she said. "Right now we've got buses that are double-parked there and you've got a lot of pedestrians there at certain times of the day.

"It would be nice to have that as just a pedestrian street all the time."

Reardon says such a street could breathe new life into the city.

Other streets, including Princess Street and North Market Street are candidates for a temporary closure if it takes place this summer.

A portion of Prince William Street is scheduled for major construction over the next few months, 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.