New Brunswick

Jelly Bean houses could be mixed-income apartment complex

A non-profit housing group would like to develop a mixed-income apartment and retail complex next to Saint John's Peel Plaza site.

Saint John Non-Profit Housing Inc. has 1-year to come up with a concept for the development

A non-profit housing group would like to develop a mixed-income apartment and retail complex next to Saint John's Peel Plaza site.

The project would incorporate the historic, so-called Jelly Bean buildings on Wellington Row as well as two municipally owned buildings on Union Street.

But Narinder Singh, the general manager at Saint John Non-Profit Housing Inc., concedes that may not be feasible.

"We don't have any pre-conceived ideas on what will occur," said Singh.

"We're going in knowing that, if possible, we're going to be looking at saving the facades or saving the buildings."

But Singh said it may make more sense, in the case of the Jelly Bean houses, to reproduce the facades on an entirely new building on the site.

Whatever concept the group comes up with will have to be approved by city council.

Saint John council has granted a one-year option to Saint John Non-Profit Housing to come up with a concept for the development.

Singh said there are several challenges, including the fact that two privately owned buildings sit in key positions and may have to be purchased to complete a viable project.

The fate of the four historic city-owned buildings has drawn the ire of heritage advocates for the past several years.

They have repeatedly stated concerns the municipality is allowing the the buildings to sit vacant and unheated.  

But Bob Boyce, the chair of the city's heritage development board, says there appears to be no interest from the private sector and it may no longer be realistic to oppose demolition if the streetscape can be maintained as part of a new complex.

"I would hope that whatever's developed there will reflect the scale and character of Wellington Row and that corner of Union Street," said Boyce.

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