Saint John agency in talks with developers about 'Fundy Quay'
Call for proposals suggests underground parking and pedway link to Market Square
Saint John's development agency says there has been a good response to a new request for expressions of interest in the former Coast Guard site on the waterfront.
"We can confirm that we do have some really qualified, interested developers in the site," said Steve Carson, executive director of Develop Saint John.
The agency issued the formal call last month, pitching the six-acre site, dubbed Fundy Quay, as "the best and highest-profile development opportunity on the nation's eastern seaboard."
Included in the proposed development area is a 1.7-acre parcel owned by the province, where the former Liberal government had planned to move the New Brunswick Museum, a $100-million project that was shelved by the new Progressive Conservative government.
The online expressions of interest call said Develop Saint John will seek help from all three levels of government to deliver the required supporting infrastructure, including a new sea wall, a district energy system to serve all the buildings, and — possibly — development of underground parking with an interior pedway linking the site to Market Square.
"Saint John is embracing its urban development opportunities and planning for investments in important infrastructure to capitalize on the momentum building in its urban core," the call for expressions of interest said.
May 7 was the deadline. The successful application was to have been determined by this Friday, but Carson said talks with developers are not completed and the process will continue for some weeks.
At the same time, he said, the agency is talking to the three levels of government about funding to repair the crumbling sea wall and raise the level of the site by about a metre, something he called "fundamental" to satisfying investors willing to front up to $200 million to build a development on the property.
He refuses to discuss timelines.
Trying to manage expectations
"There's been a lot of expectations built around this site in the past, there's been a lot of pretty pictures and renderings that have been released, a lot of community discussion," Carson said. "We know that's gone on for 15 years. So we want to really manage expectations, be realistic."
But infrastructure work, such as a new sea wall, could begin in 12 to 18 months, he said.
A report to the city's growth committee in December estimated the costs to repair and raise the sea wall at as much as $15 million.
Submissions of proposals for Fundy Quay are to be evaluated on such things as the proposal itself, the capability and experience of the developers, their financial strength, and the timeline.
Coun. John MacKenzie, who does not sit on the Develop Saint John board, said if the sea wall work can be done, the way will be open to development.
"I think there's demand for new housing uptown, condominiums, apartments, whatever," he said. "And who knows, maybe a casino, maybe a new hotel."
With files from Karissa Donkin