New Brunswick

City and Fredericton Exhibition to work together on new development plan

After years of bad blood between the City and the Fredericton Exhibition, the two sides announced a partnership to work together to develop the exhibition grounds.

Despite years of bad blood the two sides will work together to develop a new plan for the grounds

Fredericton Exhibition Ltd. has been leasing the property from the city since 1948. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC News)

The City of Fredericton and Fredericton Exhibition Ltd. are entering a partnership to develop the exhibition grounds, which could mean allowing housing and commercial operations on the site. 

The new marriage comes after years of bad blood between the parties, which was topped off with a lawsuit filed by the exhibition claiming the city violated sections of the landlord and tenant act.

The exhibition dropped the case in November 2018.

And now it appears the two sides have patched things up enough to work together to develop the contentious property.

"I think the important thing is right now is we're really starting kind of blue sky with a blank sheet for a very important first step," said Mike Vokey, the executive director of Fredericton Exhibition Ltd.

Council voted to approve a letter of intent between the two parties Monday night at its regular council meeting.

The letter is a commitment that the two sides will work together to create a site development plan for the entire exhibition grounds while the New Brunswick Provincial Exhibition, or NBEX, continues to operate from the site.

"We all had our ideas of what could happen there, but eventually you realize that the best way to go forward is on compromise," says Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien.

But just how the two sides will incorporate each of its ideas is yet to be determined.

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien with Mike Vokey, far right, of the NBEX at the council meeting Monday night. (Gary Moore/CBC)

There are no details on what the site will eventually look like, but O'Brien said the grounds will incorporate a residential component with some room for commercial development.

"There's almost 200 years of history for the NBEX there, and we want them to be robust and strong," he said. "And then the rest of the land, that is now sitting vacant, be something that the citizens can use."

"The fact that everybody kind of had a little vision of what that footprint change could be has kind of held us back from getting to this point in the past," Vokey said Monday night.

The new plan will be overseen by a new land development committee made up of city councilors, NBEX board members and people in the community.

Tense relationship

The city owns the 31-acre property but Fredericton Exhibition Ltd. has been leasing it since 1948. The lease runs in 21-year terms, and the current lease is in effect until 2031.

In 2017 the city started discussions to push the NBEX into a new location and away from the current grounds, so it could be developed into a residential area.

Mike Vokey, the executive director of Fredericton Exhibition Ltd., said the road to compromise between the two groups wasn't easy. (CBC)

That was opposed by NBEX, which eventually brought the city to court before dropping the case last fall.

Vokey acknowledged the long history between the two sides.

"It wasn't easy getting to this point."

There's no commitment on when development could happen on the site, but the mayor said the next step is to select people to the new land development committee, which he hopes will be in the next few months.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.

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