New Brunswick

J.D. Irving's unwillingness to fix vacant building frustrates councillors

Two Saint John city councillors said they’re surprised about the attitude J.D. Irving Ltd. has taken to a heritage property in the city’s uptown.

JDI was denied application to tear down 80-year-old King Street East home but has no plans to repair it

J.D. Irving Ltd. wants to demolish this apartment house near its headquarters building in Saint John. (Connell Smith, CBC)

The old adage says you can't fight city hall but, J.D. Irving Ltd. may be disproving it with the company's refusal to repair a heritage property in Saint John.

The company's approach has left at least two city councillors surprised, disappointed and wondering how to hold the company accountable.

"We're not talking about a small outfit, we're talking about JDI," Coun. David Hickey said Tuesday.

Hickey said the company has the means to repair the 80-year-old house on King Street East, which is located near company headquarters. 

But city hall has yet to figure out a way to get the company to do it.

JDI purchased the property about 25 years ago. At one time, the company rented out apartments, but the building has been vacant, boarded up and unheated for years.

The company said it isn't willing to sell the property and can't get permission to tear it down.

"I guess right now we wait," Irving spokesperson Mary Keith said earlier. "We have no immediate plans to do anything with the site at this time."

Coun. Donna Reardon said she was surprised to hear that. 

"Their strategic plan I guess, what I can draw from that, is to just get rid of it," said Reardon. 

"No other option."

Costing taxpayers

Reardon said the building is actually costing the city money. The police and fire departments have to do regular inspections to make sure it's safe.

And the building, originally a family home, brings little revenue to the city in terms of property taxes and utility bills.

"There is a cost to citizens," said Reardon.

'Their strategic plan, I guess, what I can draw from that, is to just get rid of it,' said Saint John councillor Donna Reardon. (CBC)

David Hickey said the city needs to set a clear precedent when dealing with heritage areas and businesses clearly with the financial clout to better take care of the properties.

"One of the largest businesses in the city, with both the means and ability to do something about this project," he said of JDI.

Despite suggestions from Irving, the property is an obvious candidate for heritage protection, Hickey said.

Coun. David Hickey said J.D.Irving has the means to repair the property. (@DavidHickeyNB/Twitter)

"The uniqueness of it is that it's a wood building that was built during [the Second World War,]" he said. 

"Wood was an extremely rare resource, which makes it really unique."

Reardon said Irving does a lot of good for the community, but it doesn't know city planning and is not always the best neighbour.

"JDI bought Elliott Row a few years ago … all those homes on Elliott Row are now gone," said Reardon, referring to a nearby street.

"We're seeing the beginning of [them] working on King Street East."

When JDI applied to tear down the building, it suggested part of the property would be green space, a small memorial park to a church that once stood there. The other portion of the property would have been for parking.

With files from Information Morning Saint John

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